Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.1 Kings 8:1. Solomon assembled the elders of Israel — The senators, and judges, and rulers. And all the heads of the tribes — For each tribe had a peculiar head or governor. The chief of the fathers — The principal person of every great Family in each tribe. Unto King Solomon, in Jerusalem — Where the temple was built, and now finished. That they might bring up the ark — With solemn pomp to the top of Moriah, (upon which mountain the temple stood,) in order that by this their attendance they might make a public profession of the respect, obedience, and service which they owed unto that God, who had been graciously and gloriously present with the ark. Out of the city of David, which is Zion — That is, called Zion. Thither David had brought the ark from the house of Obed-Edom, and had made a tabernacle for it, (2 Samuel 6:12; 2 Samuel 6:17,) until a fixed house should be prepared.
And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.1 Kings 8:2. All the men of Israel assembled — Not only the chief men, who were particularly invited, but a vast number of the common people, as being desirous to see and join in this great and glorious solemnity. At the feast — This feast of the dedication to which Solomon had invited them. In the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month — This time he chose for the people’s greater convenience, because now they had gathered in all their fruits, and were going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of tabernacles. But it may be objected, “According to 1 Kings 6:38, the temple was not finished till the eighth month, how then could he invite them to the dedication of it in the seventh month?” To this it must be answered, It was the seventh month of the next year. For although the house in all its parts was finished the year before, yet, it seems, the utensils of it were not then fully finished; and many preparations were to be made for this great and extraordinary occasion. Add to this, that Solomon chose to defer this solemnity till the next year, that he might celebrate it with the greater magnificence, that being the year of jubilee, their ninth, according to Archbishop Usher, which opened the fourth millenary of the world; and at the solemnity of the jubilee, there used to be always a vast concourse of people from all parts of the kingdom. “This ceremony” then of the dedication “began on the eighth day of the seventh month of the sacred year, which was the first of the civil year, answering to the latter end of our October, and lasted seven days, at the end of which began the feast of tabernacles.”
And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark.1 Kings 8:3. The priests took up the ark — The ark had been carried by the priests three times before this; when they went over Jordan; when they encompassed the walls of Jericho; and when David sent it back by Zadok and Abiathar, at the time when he fled from Absalom. It was, however, the office of the Levites to carry the ark, which they did, except upon special occasions, of which this was one. The priests were now appointed to carry it for the greater honour of the solemnity; and because the Levites might not enter into the holy place, much less into the holy of holies, where it was to be placed, into which the priests themselves might not have entered, if the high-priest alone could have done this work without them.
And they brought up the ark of the LORD, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, even those did the priests and the Levites bring up.1 Kings 8:4. And the tabernacle of the congregation — That made by Moses, which doubtless before this time had been removed from Gibeon to Zion. And all the holy vessels — Namely, the altar of incense, the table of show- bread, the candlestick, and every thing belonging to them; all these were now carried into the temple, and laid up there, to prevent all idolatrous and superstitious use of them, and to oblige the people to come up to Jerusalem, as the only place where sacrifices were now to be offered, and the various ceremonies of public worship performed.
And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude.1 Kings 8:5. King Solomon, and all the congregation with him before the ark — This ceremony of removing the ark from the tabernacle which David had erected for it, to the temple, and depositing it in the most holy place, was opened with a pompous procession. The king himself, accompanied by all his chief officers and the elders of Israel, marched before the ark; these were followed by a great number of priests and Levites, who sung some canticles proper to the occasion, and played upon various instruments. Next to the ark followed another number of singers and players, with other priests bearing the tabernacle and the sacred utensils of the sanctuary, which had been brought from Gibeon. While the priests were placing the ark in the most holy place, the air rung with the sound of a hundred and twenty trumpets, and with the voices of the Levites, who sang the praises of God, repeating these words at proper intervals; Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; and his mercy endureth for ever. It was then that God seemed to come down in a visible manner, to take possession, as it were, of his new temple, by filling it with a glorious cloud, as he had formerly done the tabernacle; insomuch that the priests could not stand to offer up the sacrifices which they had prepared upon that occasion. See Universal Hist. Sacrificing sheep and oxen that could not be numbered — When the ark was seated in its place; for although they might in the way offer some sacrifices, as David did, yet that was not a proper season to offer so many sacrifices as could not be numbered. This is more particularly related below, (1 Kings 8:62-64,) and is here only mentioned by way of anticipation.
And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims.1 Kings 8:6-8. Under the wings of the cherubim — Which Solomon had made. For the cherubim made by Moses were fixed to the mercy-seat and the ark, and were inseparable from it, and therefore, together with the ark, were placed under the wings of these cherubim. And they drew out the staves — Not wholly, which was expressly forbidden, (Exodus 25:15; Numbers 4:6,) but in part. That the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place — That is, the most holy, often called the holy place by way of eminence. And the next clause before the oracle, may be as well rendered, within the oracle. These staves were left in this posture, that the high-priest might thereby be certainly guided to that very place where he was, one day in a year, to sprinkle blood, and to offer incense before the ark, which otherwise he might have mistaken in that dark place, where the ark was wholly covered with the wings of the great cherubim, which stood between him and the ark when he entered in. They were not seen without — In the sanctuary. There they are unto this day — In that posture, namely, when this book was written.
For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above.
And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day.
There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.1 Kings 8:9. There was nothing in the ark, &c. — Strictly and properly speaking. But in a looser sense, the pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod were also in or by it, (Hebrews 9:4,) being placed by Moses, as God commanded, (Numbers 17:10,) before the ark of the testimony, in the most holy place.
And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD,1 Kings 8:10-11. When the priests were come out of the holy place — That is, the most holy, where they had set down the ark. The cloud — The usual token of God’s glorious presence, Exodus 16:10; Exodus 24:15-16; Numbers 9:15; filled the house of the Lord — In testimony of his gracious acceptance of this work and their service; and to beget an awe and reverence in them and in all others when they approached to God. So that the priests could not stand to minister — By this it appears that the cloud filled the whole house, as well as the most holy place: for it was at the altar of incense in the sanctuary that the priests ministered. And it was either so bright that it dazzled their eyes; or rather, as the next verse seems to imply, so dark that it struck them with horror and amazement. Probably it was first excessively dark, and afterward broke out in overpowering light and splendour.
So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.
Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.1 Kings 8:12. Then spake Solomon — Perceiving both priests and people to be struck with consternation and horror at this supernatural and sudden darkness, he uttered the words which follow, to compose their minds and comfort them. The Lord said he would dwell in the thick darkness — This dark cloud, therefore, is not a sign of his displeasure, as some may imagine, but rather a token of his special presence with us, and approbation of us, and that he owns this for his house, and will dwell in it, according to his declaration respecting the tabernacle, that he would appear in a cloud upon the mercy-seat, Leviticus 16:2. See also Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:22; Psalm 97:2; Exodus 40:35.
I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever.1 Kings 8:13. I have surely built thee a house to dwell in — He turns his speech from them to God, as entering into the house, and expresses his desire and hope that he would continue to manifest, by such visible tokens, that he was present in it, and would, as it were, make it the place of his special and stated abode. A settled place for thee — Not a tabernacle, made to be carried about from place to place, but a durable and perpetual habitation.
And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: (and all the congregation of Israel stood;)1 Kings 8:14. The king turned his face about — From the court of the priests and the sanctuary, to the body of the congregation who were in the court designed for the people. And blessed all the congregation — Probably in that form of words which God himself had prescribed, Numbers 6:23-25. All the congregation stood — In token of reverence to God, and respect to the king, and of their readiness to receive his blessing, and the blessing of God through his instrumentality.
And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it, saying,1 Kings 8:15-16. Which spake with his mouth unto David, &c. — He acknowledges the grace and goodness of God in making the promise, and his truth and faithfulness in fulfilling it. I chose no city — Until David’s time; for then he did choose Jerusalem. That my name might be therein — Not only, which should be called by my name, namely, the house of Jehovah: but that my presence, and grace, and worship, and glory, might be there. But I chose David — And in and with him the tribe of Judah, to which he belonged, and Jerusalem, where he dwelt.
Since the day that I brought forth my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build an house, that my name might be therein; but I chose David to be over my people Israel.
And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.1 Kings 8:17-20. It was in the heart of David my father — In his desire and purpose, as this and the like phrase is often used. Thou didst well that it was in thine heart — Thy intention and affection were well pleasing to me, although I did not permit thee, for wise reasons, to put thy pious designs into execution. The Lord hath performed his word — He concludes, as he began, with a thankful acknowledgment of God’s goodness in fulfilling his promise.
And the LORD said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart.
Nevertheless thou shalt not build the house; but thy son that shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house unto my name.
And the LORD hath performed his word that he spake, and I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.
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.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.
And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:1 Kings 8:22. Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord — He had erected a brazen scaffold, of five cubits long, five cubits broad, and three cubits high, (2 Chronicles 6:13,) and on this he stood, raised above the people, who were in the court and in the galleries round about, observing him, and disposed to hearken, with profound attention, to what he should further say. And, having spoken the foregoing words with his face toward them, and blessed them, he now turned about again with his face toward the altar, that he might address a solemn prayer to God, and so dedicate the sacred building to his worship and service. And spread forth his hands toward heaven — A solemn posture in which prayer was wont to be made, not only among the Jews, but other nations. It appears from 1 Kings 8:54 of this chapter, that when he had stood awhile with his face toward the altar, he fell down upon his knees, and uttered the greatest part of the following prayer in the posture of kneeling.
And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:1 Kings 8:23-24. Lord God of Israel, there is none like thee — He here acknowledges the transcendent excellences of Jehovah; and again particularly extols his faithfulness to those who serve him sincerely. Who hast kept with thy servant David that thou promisedst — That branch of thy promise concerning the building of this house by his son.
Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day.
Therefore now, LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me.1 Kings 8:25. Therefore now keep, &c. — Make good the other branch of thy promise. He considered God’s fulfilling the foregoing part of his promise, as an earnest that he would accomplish the other part also, made at the same time, concerning David’s posterity, 2 Samuel 7:12-13. So that thy children take heed to their way — Solomon here acknowledges that the accomplishment of the promise respecting the continuance of the kingdom in David’s family, depended on their continuance in the faith and worship of God: and that, if they became idolaters, they rendered themselves unworthy of this privilege, and forfeited all right to the inheritance of the kingdom, being no longer David’s genuine children. And therefore, according to Solomon’s own acknowledgment, after he and Rehoboam had departed from the worship of God, and began to follow idols, God might justly have taken away the kingdom from their posterity. And indeed when all Israel forsook the Lord, and worshipped the gods of the nations round about them, he did forsake their land, and would no longer dwell among them.
And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father.
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?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.
Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day:1 Kings 8:28-29. Yet have thou respect, &c. — Though thou art not comprehended within this place, yet show thyself to be graciously present here, by accepting and granting my present request here offered unto thee. That thine eyes may be open toward this house — To behold it with favourable regards, and have a gracious respect unto all that come to present their petitions here. Thou hast said, My name shall be there — My presence, glory, and grace. Hearken to the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place — This temple, to which Solomon now looked, and to which he directs the people to look in their prayers. Not as if he thought all the devout prayers, offered up to God by those who had no knowledge of this house, or regard to it, were therefore rejected; but he desired that the sensible tokens of the divine presence, with which this house was blessed, might always give sensible encouragement and comfort to believing petitioners.
That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.
And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.1 Kings 8:30. When they shall pray toward this place — None but the priests might enter that place, but when the people worshipped in the courts of the temple, it was to be with an eye toward it, not with a superstitious regard or veneration, as though it were holy in itself, or in any respect the ground of their confidence in their worship, which would have been idolatry; but, as an instituted medium of their worship, helping the weakness of their faith, and typifying the mediation of Jesus Christ, who is the true temple, and to whom we must have an eye in all our approaches to, and intercourse with, God. Hence, the pious Jews that were at a distance looked toward Jerusalem for the sake of the temple, even when it lay in ruins, Daniel 6:10. Hear thou in heaven — Which he adds to direct them, in their addresses to God in or looking toward this temple, to lift up their eyes above it, even to heaven, where God’s most true and most proper dwelling-place is. When thou hearest, forgive — The sins of thy people praying, and even of their prayers; which sins, if not pardoned, will certainly hinder the success of all their prayers, and the course of all thy blessings.
If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house:1 Kings 8:31. If any man, &c. — He now puts divers cases in which he supposed application would be made to God in prayer, in or toward this house of prayer; and first that of God’s being appealed to by an oath for the determining of any controverted right between man and man. If any man trespass against his neighbour — If a man be accused of a trespass. And an oath be laid upon him — Either by the judge, or by the party accusing him, or by the accused person himself, claiming the privilege of perjuring himself by an oath from the trespass laid to his charge, which was usual when there were no witnesses. Solomon seems here to refer chiefly to the case of those who were accused of denying that which was said to be deposited with them by their neighbour. And the oath come before thine altar — Where God, who was appealed to as a witness, was supposed to be especially present. Hence the heathen were wont to swear at their altars; calling on their gods to witness to the truth of what they said, and to punish them if they uttered any falsehood therein.
Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.1 Kings 8:32. Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge — Discover the truth, and judge between the contending parties. He prays that in difficult matters his throne of grace might be a throne of judgment, from which God would right the injured that believingly appealed to it; and punish the injurious that presumptuously appealed to it. To bring his way upon his head — The just recompense of his wicked action and course. And justifying the righteous, to give him, &c. — To vindicate him, and manifest his integrity.
When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house:1 Kings 8:33-34. When thy people be smitten — This is the second case he puts. If the people of Israel were in general groaning under any national calamity, he desires that the prayers which they should make in or toward that house might be heard and answered. Shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name — Not only shall acknowledge thee to be God alone, renouncing all false gods; but shall give glory to thy name by acknowledging their sins and thy justice; by accepting the punishment of their iniquity; and by trusting to thy power and goodness alone for deliverance. And make supplication to thee in this house — Trusting in thee, and expecting help from thee alone. Then hear, and bring them again, &c. — Deliver them out of the captivity into which their enemies may have carried them, and restore them to their own country.
Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers.
When heaven is 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: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.
Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.1 Kings 8:36. That thou teach them the good way — The way of their duty, which is good in itself, and both delightful and profitable to those that walk in it. But this clause is better translated, 2 Chronicles 6:27, (where the Hebrew words are the same with these here,) When thou hast taught them the good way wherein they should walk, namely, when their afflictions have had the desired effect to teach them better obedience. And give rain upon the land — The order of Solomon’s prayer is very observable; first and chiefly, he prays for their repentance and forgiveness, which is the chief blessing, and the only solid foundation of all other mercies; and then he prays for temporal mercies, thereby teaching us what to desire principally in our prayers; which also Christ hath taught us in his perfect prayer, wherein there is but one petition for outward, and all the rest are for spiritual blessings.
If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be;1 Kings 8:37. If there be in the land famine — Which arose sometimes from other causes besides want of rain. If their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities — In their gates, whereby they should be so straitened, that none could go in or out. Whatsoever plague — The word נגע, negang, here rendered plague, properly signifies some extraordinary stroke by the hand of God. Whatsoever sickness there be — For Solomon believed whatever calamity befel other people, might light on Israel.
What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:1 Kings 8:38. What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man — Distressed through national calamities, or private and personal troubles. He now comes to speak of the case of individual Israelites. If any man of Israel has an errand to thee, here let him find thee, here let him find favour with thee. He does not instance in particulars; so numerous, so various are the grievances of the children of men. Which shall know every man the plague of his own heart — His sinfulness, the corruption of his nature, which may be called the plague of his own heart, in opposition to the other plagues here mentioned: and so the sense is, Who by their afflictions are brought to a true and serious sense of the inward plague of their sins, which are most fitly called the plague of the heart, because the heart is both the principal seat of sin, and the fountain from whence all sinful thoughts, words, and actions flow. Now every true Israelite labours to know his heart, and the sinfulness and depravity of it, that he may resist and mortify the lusts, passions, and corrupt inclinations thereof, and may watch against the first risings of evil within him. Of these things he complains: these drive him to his knees and to the sanctuary, and, lamenting and seeking deliverance from these, he spreads forth his hands in prayer, as Hezekiah spread his letter before the Lord. Reader, is this thy practice?
Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)1 Kings 8:39-40. Give to every man according to his ways — According to his repentance or impenitency. As if he had said, I pray with the greater hope and confidence, because I do not desire that thou wouldst deliver such as are insensible of their sins and of thy judgments, but only those that are truly brought to know the plague of their own hearts in the manner before explained. Whose heart thou knowest — Thou art acquainted not only with the plague of their hearts, their several wants and burdens, (these he knows, but he will know them from us,) but with the desire and intent of the heart, the sincerity or hypocrisy of it; thou knowest who are truly penitent, and who are not, and therefore the granting my request will be no dishonour to thy government, nor injury to thy holy nature. That they may fear thee all their days — That when thou hast first smitten them, and then so eminently delivered them, and that in answer to their prayers, they may hereby be taught to fear thee, to stand in awe of thy justice, and to adore thy goodness.
That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers.
Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake;1 Kings 8:41-42. Moreover, concerning a stranger — The case of an alien, who is not an Israelite is next mentioned; a proselyte that might come to the temple to pray to the God of Israel, being convinced of the folly and wickedness of worshipping the gods of his country. He supposes there would be many such; that the fame of God’s great works which he had wrought for Israel; by which he had proved himself to be above all gods, nay, to be God alone, would reach distant countries. They shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand — And this will bring such as are thinking and considerate among them to pray toward this house, that they may obtain the favour of a God that is able to confer on them real blessings.
(For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house;
Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.1 Kings 8:43. Do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for — That is, so far as is agreeable to thy word and will. It is observable, that his prayer for the stranger is more large and comprehensive than for the Israelites; that thereby he might both show his public spirit, and encourage strangers to the worship of the true God. Thus early were the indications of God’s favour toward the sinners of the Gentiles. As there was then one law for the native and for the stranger, so there was one gospel for both. That all the people of the earth may know thy name — Hereby we learn how sincerely and heartily the ancient and godly Jews desired the conversion of the Gentiles; whereas the latter and degenerate Jews, in the days of Christ and of the apostles, out of pride, envy, and malice, opposed and fretted at it. That they may know that this house is called by thy name — Is owned not only by us, but by thyself as thy house; the only place in the world to which thou wilt vouchsafe thy special presence and protection, and where thou wilt be publicly and solemnly worshipped.
If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the LORD toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name:1 Kings 8:44-45. If thy people go out to battle — In a just cause, and by thy warrant and commission. This is the next case recommended by Solomon to the divine favour. Whithersoever thou shalt send them — In this is implied, that it was unlawful for them to undertake any war merely for their own pleasure or profit, or the gratification of their own worldly or ambitious desires; or to enlarge their empire beyond its due bounds; and that they could not, with a good conscience, pray to God for his blessing on such a war. And shall pray unto the Lord — Whereby he instructs them that they should not trust either to the strength or justice of their arms, but only to God’s help and blessing, for which they were to pray. Toward the city which thou hast chosen — For thy dwelling-place, and the seat of thy temple. Toward the house which I have built — For to it they were to turn their faces in prayer; to profess themselves worshippers of the true God, in opposition to idols; and to strengthen their faith in God’s promises and covenant, the tables whereof were contained in that house. Soldiers in the field must not think it enough that others pray for them; they must pray for themselves; and they are here encouraged to expect a gracious answer. Praying should always go along with fighting. Maintain their cause — Declare the justice of their cause by giving them the victory.
Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.
If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;1 Kings 8:46. If they sin against thee — The universal corruption of man’s whole race and nature, makes me presage that they will fall into sins; and withal makes me hope that thou wilt not be severe to deal with them as their sins deserve. For there is no man that sinneth not — That doth not fall short of his duty in many respects, “that doth not enough,” says Henry, “to justify God in the severest rebukes of his providence.” And “no man but what is in danger of falling even into gross sin, and will, if God leave him to himself.” Thus the Hebrew, אשׁר לא יחשׂא, asher lo jecheta, who may not, or will not, sin, even openly and wilfully, if divine grace prevent not. This last sense of the clause seems best to suit the context, as well as to express the meaning of the original. And, thus understood, the words do not contradict the declaration of St. John, that he who is born of God, sinneth not; that is, doth not commit known and actual sin; but has power over it, and is careful to shun the appearance of evil. See notes on 1 John 3:4-10; 1 John 5:18; Romans 6:14. Solomon did not mean that the weakness of human nature, and its proneness to sin, would excuse known and wilful offences against God, especially apostacy from him and his service, which was the cause of all the calamities of the Israelites.
Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;1 Kings 8:47-49. If they shall bethink themselves — Consider their ways, and reflect on their past conduct as the cause of their sufferings. Hebrew, If they shall bring back their hearts from their idols and vanities; from going out after, and trusting in, any creature. And repent — Afflictions are calculated to bring men, first to serious consideration, and then to repentance; and when they are truly penitent, they wilt confess their sins and humble themselves. Saying — Sensibly, and with an honest heart; we have sinned and done perversely. And return unto thee with all their heart and all their soul — Sincerely, universally, and steadfastly. Then hear thou, and maintain their cause — Hebrew, their right against their invaders and oppressors; for they had forfeited all their rights to God only, but not to their enemies; whom though God used as scourges to chastise his people’s sins, yet they had no pretence of right to their land.
And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name:
Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause,
And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them:1 Kings 8:50-51. That they may have compassion on them — Treat them mercifully while they continue their slaves, and give them liberty to return to their own land. God has the hearts of all men in his hands, and, can, when he pleaseth, turn the strongest stream the contrary way, and cause those to pity his people, who have been their most cruel persecutors. For they be thy people — How much soever they may sin against thee, or suffer from men, yet still remember they are thy peculiar people, received into covenant with thee, and taken under thy care and protection. And thine inheritance — From whom, more than from any other nation, thy rent and tribute of glory arises. Which thou broughtest from the furnace of iron — From cruel bondage, and painful labours. For he compares Egypt to a furnace in which iron and other metals are melted, or which, being made of iron, is more hot and terrible than one of brick and stone, to signify the misery and torment which the Israelites endured there.
For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron:
That thine eyes may be open unto the supplication of thy servant, and unto the supplication of thy people Israel, to hearken unto them in all that they call for unto thee.
For thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD.1 Kings 8:53. For thou didst separate them to be thine inheritance — Thou hast begun a work of great and glorious mercy to them; do not give occasion to thine enemies to think thou wast unable to finish it; or that thou art inconstant in thy ways and purposes, or unkind to thy own children.
And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying,1 Kings 8:55-56. He stood and blessed all the congregation, &c. — He spoke what follows standing, that he might be the better heard, and because he blessed as one having authority. Never were words more pertinently spoken; never was a congregation dismissed with that which was more likely to affect them, and to abide with them. Blessed be the Lord that hath given rest, &c., according to all that he promised — Thus he, as it were, writes a receipt in full on the back of the bonds of the divine promises. There hath, not failed one word of all his good promises — This discharge he gives in the name of all Israel, to the everlasting honour of the divine faithfulness, and the everlasting encouragement of all those who build on the divine promises.
Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.
The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us:
That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.1 Kings 8:58. That he may incline our hearts unto him — That he may not only bless us with outward prosperity and glory; but especially with spiritual blessings; and that as he has given us his word to teach and direct us; so he would, by his Holy Spirit, effectually incline us to obey it.
And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the LORD, be nigh unto the LORD our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require:1 Kings 8:59. Let these my words be nigh unto the Lord our God, day and night — Let a gracious return be made to every prayer that shall be made there, and that will be a constant answer to this prayer. That he maintain the cause if his servant and of his people — Of me their king, and consequently of all my successors, and of the whole kingdom. As the matters shall require — According to mine or their various necessities and exigences. What Solomon asks here, with regard to his prayer, is still granted in the intercession of Christ, of which his supplication was a type; that powerful, prevailing intercession, is before the Lord our God day and night. For our great Advocate attends continually to this very thing, and we may depend on him to maintain our cause, against the adversary that accuseth us day and night, (Revelation 12:10,) and the common cause of his people Israel at all times, upon all occasions, as the matter shall require, so as to speak for us the word of the day in its day, as the original here reads it, from which we shall receive grace sufficient, suitable and seasonable in every time of need.
That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else.1 Kings 8:60. That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord (Hebrew, Jehovah) is God — That both by our virtuous and holy lives, to which his grace inclines us; and by the eminent manifestations of his power and goodness in defending and delivering us from the assaults and devices of our enemies, all the nations of the world may be convinced that our God is the living and true God, and he alone, and may thereupon be induced to renounce their idols and to serve him. For Solomon did not desire that Israel should be thus blessed, thus favoured, in order that all people might become tributaries to him and his successors, (his kingdom being already as great as he desired,) but that all people might know and worship Jehovah. Thus Solomon’s prayers, like the prayers of his father David, the son of Jesse, are ended, Psalm 72:19-20, with this petition, Let the whole earth be filled with his glory. And “we cannot close our prayers,” says Henry, “with a better summary than this, Father, glorify thy name.”
Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.1 Kings 8:61. Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord your God — Be sincere and serious in your purposes of new obedience. Let it be universal, without dividing; upright, without dissembling; and constant, without declining. Thus having spoken to God for them, he here speaks from God to them; and those only would be the better for his prayers, that were made better by his preaching.
And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the LORD.
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.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.
The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brasen altar that was before the LORD was too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings.1 Kings 8:64. The same day — Or rather, at the same time. For it can scarcely be supposed that it could all be done the same day. Did the king hallow the middle of the court — Namely, the court of the priests in which the great altar was. This he consecrated as he did the great altar, by sacrifices; but with this difference, that he consecrated that for perpetual use, but this only for the present occasion, being warranted to do so both by the necessity of it for God’s service, and for the present solemn work, for which the brazen altar was not sufficient; and by the direction of God’s Spirit, wherewith Solomon was endowed, as being a prophet, as well as a king. Here therefore he suddenly reared up divers altars, which, after this solemnity, were demolished.
And at that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt, before the LORD our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days.1 Kings 8:65-66. At that time Solomon held a feast — That is, kept a solemn festival. And all Israel from Hamath unto the river of Egypt — The usual and known bounds of the land, in the utmost length of it, Numbers 34:8; Joshua 13:5; Jdg 3:3. Before the Lord — Before the temple, as in God’s presence. Seven days and seven days — Seven for the dedication of the temple, or altar; and the other seven for the feast of tabernacles. And it seems to be expressed in this manner, to intimate, that these fourteen days of rejoicing were not all together, but that there was some interval between them, which indeed was necessary, because the day of atonement was on the tenth day of this month, Leviticus 23:27. And because these fourteen days ended on the twenty-second day, (2 Chronicles 7:10,) it may seem most probable, that the feast of the dedication was kept before the tenth day; and the feast of tabernacles some days after it. On the eighth day he sent the people away — Having joined with them in the solemn assembly, which was kept on the eighth day; in the close of that day he took his solemn farewell, and dismissed them with his blessing; and the next morning, when the heads and elders, with divers of the people, came to take their leave of the king, he sent them away. And they blessed the king — They applauded, admired, and returned him the thanks of the congregation for the great care and pains he had taken in building the temple and setting up God’s worship among them. Or, they prayed to God to bless him, according to their duty and custom. And went to their tents joyful and glad of heart — Easy in mind and pleased; rejoicing in all the goodness that the Lord had done for David — In giving him a sure house, and a wise and religious son, by whom he had now fulfilled the promise made to him about building the temple. And for Israel his people — They rejoiced in God’s blessings both on the royal family and on the kingdom. In this spirit should we go home from holy ordinances, and should rejoice for God’s goodness to our Lord Jesus, of whom David his servant was a type, in the advancement and establishment of his throne, pursuant to the covenant of redemption; and to all believers, his spiritual Israel, in their sanctification and consolation, pursuant to the covenant of grace. If we rejoice not herein always, it is our own fault; it is owing to the weakness of our faith and hope, and the coldness of our love.
On the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people.