Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE AND MAKING OF THE SACRED VESSELS(2Chronicles 3:1 to 2Chronicles 5:1; comp. 1 Kings 6, 7).
(a) Site and date (2Chronicles 3:1-2). (b) Its dimensions: the porch and the Holy Place, or nave (2Chronicles 3:3-7). (c) The Holy of holies, or chancel, with the cherubim and the vail (2Chronicles 3:8-14). (d) The two bronze pillars in the porch (2Chronicles 3:15-17).
Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.(a) SITE AND DATE (2Chronicles 3:1-2).
(1) At Jerusalem in mount Moriah.—Nowhere else in the Old Testament is the Temple site so specified. (Comp. “the land of Moriah,” the place appointed for the sacrifice of Isaac, Genesis 22:2.)
Where the Lord appeared unto David his father.—So LXX.; rather, who appeared unto David his father. Such is the meaning according to the common use of words. There is clearly an allusion to the etymology of MORIAH, which is assumed to signify “appearance of Jah.” (Comp. Genesis 22:14.) Translate, “in the mount of the Appearance of Jah, who appeared unto David his father.” The Vulgate reads: “in Monte Moria qui demonstratus fuerat David patri ejus;” but nir’ah never means to be shown or pointed out. The Syriac, misunderstanding the LXX. (Ἀμωρία), renders “in the hill of the Amorites.”
In the place that David had prepared.—This is no doubt correct, as the versions indicate. The Hebrew has suffered an accidental transposition.
And he began to build in the second day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign.(2) In the second day of the second month.—Heb., in the second month in the second. The versions omit the repetition, which is probably a scribe’s error. “On the second day” would be expressed in Hebrew differently. Read simply, “And he began to build in the second month,” i.e., in Zif (or April—May). See 1Kings 6:1.
Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God. The length by cubits after the first measure was threescore cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits.(b) DIMENSIONS OF THE TEMPLE; THE PORCK AND THE HOLY PLACE, OR NAVE (2Chronicles 3:3-7).
(3) Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed.—Rather, And this is the foundation (or ground-plan) of Solomon. The plural pronoun ‘ēllè, “these,” is used as a neut. sing. “this” (comp. 1Chronicles 24:19), and the hophal infinitive hûsad, “to be founded,” is used substantively, as in Ezra 3:11. So Vulgate, “Et haec sunt fundamenta quae jecit Solomon.”
After the first measure.—Rather, in the ancient measure, an explanation not found in the parallel passage, 1Kings 6:2. The ancient or Mosaic cubit was one hand -breadth longer than the cubit of later times (Ezekiel 40:5; Ezekiel 43:13). The chronicler has omitted the height, which was thirty cubits (1Kings 6:2).
And the porch that was in the front of the house, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the height was an hundred and twenty: and he overlaid it within with pure gold.(4) And the porch . . . twenty cubits.—Heb., and the porch that was before the length (i.e., that lay in front of the oblong main building), before the breadth of the house, was twenty cubits (i.e., the porch was as. long as the house was broad). This curious statement answers to what we read in 1Kings 6:3 : “And the porch before the hall of the house, twenty cubits was its length, before the breadth of the house.” But the Hebrew is too singular to pass without challenge, and comparison of the versions suggests that we ought to read here: “And the porch which was before it (Syriac), or before the house (LXX.), its length before the breadth of the house was twenty cubits.” This would involve but slight alteration of the Hebrew text. (Comp. 2Chronicles 3:8.)
And the height was an hundred and twenty. This would make the porch four times the height of the main building, which was thirty cubits. The Alexandrine MS. of the LXX., and the Arabic version, read “twenty cubits;” the Syriac omits the whole clause,, which has no parallel in Kings, and is further suspicious as wanting the word “cubits,” usually expressed after the number (see 2Chronicles 3:3). The Hebrew may be a corruption of the clause, “and its breadth ten cubits.” (Comp. 1Kings 6:3.)
And he overlaid it within with pure gold.—See 1Kings 6:21.
And the greater house he cieled with fir tree, which he overlaid with fine gold, and set thereon palm trees and chains.(5) The greater house.—Or, the great chamber, i.e. the Holy Place, or nave. (Comp. 1Chronicles 28:11.)
He cieled with fir tree.—He covered with planks of fir; or, panelled with fir. To ciel, or rather seel (from syle or cyll, a canopy: Skeat, Etymol. Dict. s.v.) a room, meant in old English to wainscot or panel it. (Comp. 1Kings 6:15-16.)
Which he overlaid with fine gold.—And covered it (the chamber) with good gold. The cypress wainscoting was plated with gold.
And set thereon palm trees and chains.—Brought up on it (i.e., carved upon it) palms and chain-work (1Kings 7:17). (For the palms, see 1Kings 6:29; Ezekiel 41:18.) The chain-work must have consisted of garland-like carvings on the fir panels. 1Kings 6:18 omits mention of it; LXX., “carved on it palms and chains”; Syriac, “figured on it the likeness of palms and lilies”; Vulgate, “graved on it palms and as it were chainlets intertwining.”
And he garnished the house with precious stones for beauty: and the gold was gold of Parvaim.(6) Garnished.—Overlaid (2Chronicles 3:4) the chamber.
Precious stones.—See 1Chronicles 29:2; and 1Kings 10:11, which relates that Hiram’s fleet brought “precious stones” from Ophir for Solomon. But no mention of this kind of decoration is made in 1 Kings 6. The Vulgate explains the phrase as meaning a floor of costly marble.
Gold of Parvaim.—Perhaps Farwâ, an auriferous region in S. Arabia. Others connect the word with the Sanskrit pûrva, “eastern,” and seek Parvaim, like Ophir, in India. The name does not recur in the Old Testament.
He overlaid also the house, the beams, the posts, and the walls thereof, and the doors thereof, with gold; and graved cherubims on the walls.(7) He overlaid also the house.—And he covered (2Chronicles 3:5) the chamber—that is, the great chamber or Holy Place. (See 1Kings 6:21-23.)
The beams.—Of the roof.
The posts.—The thresholds (Isaiah 6:4).
And graved cherubims on the walls.—See 1Kings 6:29, which gives a fuller account of the mural decorations.
Cherubims.—Cherubim, or cherubs (Psalm 18:10). Cherubim is the Hebrew plural, for which we have the Chaldee (Aramaic) form “cherubin” in the Te Deum. Shakspeare has:—
“The roof of the chamber
With golden cherubins is fretted.”
Why Reuss calls this sketch of the porch and nave “confused” is hardly evident.
And he made the most holy house, the length whereof was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits: and he overlaid it with fine gold, amounting to six hundred talents.(c) THE HOLY OF HOLIES, OR CHANCEL, WITH THE CHERUBIM AND THE VAIL (2Chronicles 3:8-14).
The length whereof was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits.—Its length before the breadth of the house was twenty cubits. (See Note on 2Chronicles 3:4.)
And the breadth thereof twenty cubits.—1Kings 6:20 adds that the height also was twenty cubits, so that the chamber formed a perfect cube.
Six hundred talents.—The weight of gold thus expended on the plating of the walls of the inner shrine is not given in Kings. Solomon’s whole yearly revenue was 666 talents (1Kings 10:14).
And the weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold. And he overlaid the upper chambers with gold.(9) And the weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold.—Literally, And a weight for nails for shekels—fifty in gold. The LXX. and Vulg. take this to mean that the weight of each nail was fifty shekels; and this is probably right, for fifty shekels as a total would be a trifling sum to record along with six hundred talents. The nails were used to fasten the golden plates to the wooden wainscoting of the edifice.
Whatever may be thought of the apparently incredible quantities of gold and silver stated to have been amassed by David for the Temple (1Chronicles 22:14; 1Chronicles 29:4; 1Chronicles 29:7), it is clear that no inconsiderable amount of the former metal would be required for the plating of the chambers as described in this chapter. And it is well known, from their own monuments, that the Babylonian sovereigns of a later age were in the habit of thus adorning the houses of their gods. Nebuchadnezzar, for instance, who restored the great temple of Borsippa, says: “E-zida, the strong house, in the midst thereof I caused to make, with silver, gold, alabaster, bronze . . . cedar I caused to adorn (or, completed) its sibir. The cedar of the roof (?) of the shrines of Nebo with gold I caused to clothe.” In another inscription we read: “The shrine of Nebo, which is amid E-Sagili, its threshold, its bolt, and its babnaku, with gold I caused to clothe.” And again: “The cedar roof of the oracle I caused to clothe with bright silver.” The Assyrian Esarhaddon, a century earlier, boasts that he built ten castles in Assyria and Accad, and “made them shine like day with silver and gold.”
And he overlaid.—And the upper chambers he covered with gold. The chambers over the Holy of holies are mentioned in 1Chronicles 28:11. The two statements of this verse are peculiar to the chronicle. The Syriac and Arabic omit the verse.
And in the most holy house he made two cherubims of image work, and overlaid them with gold.(10) Two cherubims.—1Kings 6:23-28. They were made of oleaster, plated with gold.
Of image work.—Literally, a work of statuary. The Hebrew word meaning “statuary” occurs here only, and looks suspicious. The Vulg. renders opere statuario; the LXX. “a work of logs”; the Syriac “a durable work.” With the last three renderings comp. 1Kings 6:23, “wood (or blocks) of oleaster,” a specially hard wood. The rendering of the LXX. suggests that the original reading may have been ma‘asēh ‘ēçîm, “woodwork.”
And overlaid.—Heb., and they overlaid.
And the wings of the cherubims were twenty cubits long: one wing of the one cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was likewise five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub.(11) And the wings of the cherubims were twenty cubits long.—Their length was, altogether, twenty cubits; so that, being outspread, they reached from wall to wall of the Holy of holies, which was twenty cubits wide. Of this breadth each cherub covered half, or ten cubits, with his wings, which were five cubits apiece in length. Obviously the inner wing of each cherub met the inner wing of the other in the middle of the wall.
One wing . . . other cherub.—The wing of the one, extending to five cubits, was touching the wall of the chamber, and the other wing—five cubits—was touching the wing of the other cherub.
And one wing of the other cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was five cubits also, joining to the wing of the other cherub.(12) Literally, And the wing of the one cherub—five cubits—was touching the wall of the chamber, and the other wing—five cubits—was cleaving to the wing of the other cherub.
The wings of these cherubims spread themselves forth twenty cubits: and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward.(13) The wings of these cherubims.—Or, These wings of the cherubim.
Spread themselves forth.—Were outspreading (participle), 1Chronicles 28:18.
And they stood.—Were standing. They were ten cubits high (1Kings 6:26).
Inward.—See margin. Translate, toward the chamber. The cherubs did not face each other like the cherubim on the mercy seat (Exodus 25:20).
And he made the vail of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon.(14) The vail.—The Pārōkheth, or curtain, which divided the holy place from the holy of holies, is not mentioned in the existing text of 1Kings 6:21, which passage, however, speaks of the chains of gold by which the vail was probably suspended.
Also he made before the house two pillars of thirty and five cubits high, and the chapiter that was on the top of each of them was five cubits.(d) THE TWO BRONZE PILLARS IN THE PORCH
(15) Before the house.—Before the holy place, in the porch.
Two pillars of thirty and five cubits high.—Two pillars thirty and five cubits in length. 1Kings 7:15 says “eighteen cubits,” so also 2Kings 25:17; Jeremiah 52:21; and no doubt correctly. Of the versions, the LXX. and Vulg. have “thirty-five;” the Syriac and Arabic, “eighteen.”
And he made chains, as in the oracle, and put them on the heads of the pillars; and made an hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains.(16) And he made chains, as in the oracle.—Heb., And he made chainwork in the oracle, or chancel, which is clearly corrupt. But if we read kad-debîr for bad-debîr, an infinitesimal change in Hebrew writing, we get the sense which our version suggests: And he made chainwork as in the chancel. It is true that the sacred writer has not told us that the walls of the Holy of Holies were so ornamented, but in 2Chronicles 3:5 he states it of the great hall or holy place, and 1Kings 6:29 declares that the whole house was adorned with mural carvings. It was quite natural to write, “and he made chainwork as in the oracle,” assuming that such decorations really existed in the inner chamber. There seems therefore to be no need to alter debîr into rabîd, (“collar”) as most commentators have done, although the change is very slight in Hebrew writing. The LXX. had the present Hebrew text, but, apparently, not understanding it transliterated the Hebrew words: “He made serserôth in the dabir.” So Vulg., “as it were chainlets in the oracle.” The Syriac and Arabic have “and he made chains of fifty cubits.”
An hundred pomegranates.—So Jeremiah 52:23. (See 1Kings 7:20; 1Kings 7:42, from which it appears that there were altogether four hundred pomegranates, viz., an upper and lower row of one hundred each upon the chainwork of each pillar. So 2Chronicles 4:13.)
And he reared up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz.(17) Before the temple.—Vulg., in vestibulo templi. So 1Kings 7:21 has, “at the porch of the temple.” 1Kings 7:22 adds, “and upon the top of the pillars was lily-work.”
Jachin . . . Boaz.—See 1Kings 7:21. “The description of the two brazen pillars,” says Reuss, “much more detailed in 1Kings 7:15 ff., has become almost unintelligible, under the pen of the abbreviate.” This is a strong exaggeration. He also pronounces the word bad-debîr in 2Chronicles 3:16 “absolutely unintelligible,” and to be accounted “foreign to the text.” How little we agree with this hasty decision will be evident from our Note on that verse.