Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT, TO A LARGE EXTENT, OUR POSSESSION IS OUR HERITAGE. It was a very great privilege Solomon was now enjoying, and it must have been felt by him to be a high honour and a keen gratification. How much of it he owed to his father! It was David who conceived the idea; it was he who gained the sanction of Jehovah; it was he who had practically gained the valuable co-oporation of Hiram (1 Kings 5:1); it was he, also, who had secured an admirable and acceptable site for the building (1 Chronicles 21:18; 1 Chronicles 22:1). If we examine we shall find that a very large part of our acquisition, whether it be property (in the usual sense of that word), or knowledge and intellectual power, or honour, or affection, or ever character, is due to that which we have inherited from those who came before us.
II. THAT GREATER WORK DEMANDS FULLER PREPARATION. The building of the temple was certainly one of the very first things that Solomon considered and determined upon when he came to the throne. Yet it was not until "the second month, in the fourth year of his reign," that the erection actually commenced. So great a work took large preparation. We show our sense of the real seriousness and magnitude of the work we do for God when we take time and spend strength in its preparation. To go with haste and heedlessness to any sacred work, even though the "house of the Lord" we arc building is not one of magnificence (1 Chronicles 22:5), is a spiritual mis-demeanour; to enter upon any great undertaking in the name and cause of Jesus Christ without much patient thought and earnest effort in the way of preparation is wholly wrong.
III. THAT THE COMMENCEMENT OF A GREAT WORK IS A MEMORABLE MOMENT. It was fitting that the very day when this great work began should he recorded, as it is in Holy Writ (ver. 2). It was a memorable moment in Solomon's reign and in the history of the Jews. For then began to rise a building which had an immense and, indeed, an incalculable influence on the nation, and so upon mankind. Such times are sacred. Of all those days to which, in later years, we look back with interest and joy, none will stand out so clearly, and none will give us such pure and strong gratification, as the days when we instituted some movement in the cause of Christ, in the service of our fellow-men.
IV. THAT THIS HOUR OF COMMENCEMENT SHOULD BE A VERY SACRED TIME TO OUR SOULS. It may well be one of:
1. Joyful eagerness; for there is something very inspiring in the act of commencing a truly noble work - it exhilarates and animates the soul. It should also be one of:
2. Special prayerfulness; for then we urgently need the guiding and guarding hand of our God to be upon us.
3. Steadfast purpose; for there will be unanticipated difficulties and disheartening delays, possibly much temporary disappointment and partial failure, and a strong, resolute purpose will be needed to carry us through to the end.
4. Unselfish devotedness. We must ever keep in mind that the "house" we are erecting, of whatever kind it be, is the house "of the Lord." If we fail to realize that it is for Christ that we are working, our labour will lose its excellency, its inspiration, and its reward. - C.
I. THE SITE.
1. Central At Jerusalem.
(1) Natural. Jerusalem, the metropolis of the kingdom, the political and religious centre of the country, was entitled to contain the chief symbol round which the political and religious life of the nation was in future to revolve.
(2) Appropriate. As the king had a palace in the capital, it was fitting the king's King, Jehovah, should there have a temple.
(3) Convenient. Since the temple was to be Israel's meeting-place in their national assemblies, it was better the structure should stand in the chief city of the realm than in a provincial town.
(4) Significant. It seemed to say that henceforth Solomon was to seek the security of his throne, the stability of his government, and the welfare of his empire in the worship of Jehovah and the practice of religion.
2. Conspicuous. On Mount Moriah, which had been so named because of Jehovah's appearing on its summit to Abraham (Genesis 22:2), rather than because it had been pointed out to David by Jehovah (Bertheau) - a mountain situated north-east of Zion, and now styled "The Haram," after a Mohammedan mosque with which it is crowned. According to present-day measurements, rising to the height of between 2278 and 2462 feet above the level of the Mediterranean (Conder, 'Handbook to the Bible,' p. 359), it was a fitting site for the temple, which, besides being firmly established as founded on a rock, would thereby be visible from afar, and so a centre of attraction for travellers approaching the city. So is Christ's Church, like it, founded on a rock (Matthew 16:18), and, like it, should be a city set upon a hill (Matthew 5:14).
3. Consecrated. In the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (On the suitability of the Haram summit to be a threshing-floor, see Exposition.) In addition to the theophany which had there occurred in connection with the offering of Isaac, a similar manifestation of Jehovah had recently taken place in the lifetime of David (1 Chronicles 21:15-30). It was thus to Solomon a spot doubly hallowed. If in David's eyes, because of the old patriarchal altar that had stood thereon, the place was invested with a special charm, in Solomon's this charm would not be diminished, but intensified, by the recollection of the altar his father had built.
II. THE TIME.
1. Specific. "In the second day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign, began Solomon to build;" i.e. 480 years after the exodus from Egypt (1 Kings 6:1); or, according to another reckoning, 592 years subsequent to that event, 240 after the building of Tyre, and 143 years 8 months prior to the founding of Carthage (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:3.1; 'Against Apion,' 1:17, 18). Great events make deep indentations on the memories of men as well as on the course of time. The building of the Solomonic temple, of more than national, was of world-wide importance.
2. Early. It shows the high conception Solomon had of the work delegated to him by his father, as well as marked out for him by God; indicates the earnestness and enthusiasm with which he undertook it, that he set about its performance almost at the earliest possible moment, "in the fourth year of his reign," before erecting for himself a palace, or for his country a chain of forts. It is an Old Testament form of the New Testament lesson, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).
III. THE ERECTION.
1. The house, or the temple proper.
(1) Its dimensions: 60 cubits long, 20 broad (ver. 3), 30 high (1 Kings 6:2); i.e. taking the cubit at 1.33 feet, 79.8 feet, 26'. feet, and 39.9 feet, or, in round numbers, 80 feet, 27 feet, and 40 feet.
(2) Its parts. "The greater house" (ver. 5), i.e. the holy place, or the outer of the two compartments into which the house was divided, and "the most holy house" (ver. 8), or the inner of the two compartments. As this latter was a perfect cube, 20 cubits each way, the former was (internally viewed) a rectangular parallelopiped, of length 40, of breadth 20, of height 30 cubits. Besides these were "the upper chambers" (ver. 9), or the space above the holy of holies, whose dimensions were 20 cubits long, 20 broad, and 10 high.
(3) Its ornaments. The house was built of white freestone cut from the royal quarries under Bezetha, the northern hill on which Jerusalem is built (Warren, 'Underground Jerusalem,' p. 60), smoothly polished and laid so skilfully and harmoniously together that "there appeared to the spectators no sign of any hammer or other instrument of architecture, but as if, without any use of them, the entire materials had naturally united themselves together" (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:3. 2). The interior of the house was covered with wood, the walls and the ceiling with cedar, the floor with cypress (1 Kings 6:15), so that no part of the stonework was visible. The wood was ornamented with carved work representing palm trees (ver. 5) and cherubim (ver. 7), the latter on the walls, the former on the roof. In addition were knops or gourde and open flowers (1 Kings 6:18). Similar decorations were carved upon the outer sides of the walls (1 Kings 6:29). The whole house, interior and exterior - walls, roof, beams, posts, doors - was overlaid with gold plates, which received impressions from the carved work underneath. "To say all in a word, Solomon left no part of the temple, neither internal nor external, but what was covered with gold" (Josephus). The gold, of the finest quality (1 Kings 6:20), was fetched from Parvaim, a place of uncertain location - Ophir in Ceylon (Bochart), Ophir in India (Knobel), Peru and Mexico (Ritter), Southern or Eastern Arabia (Bertheau), the peninsula of Malacca (Leyrer, in Herzog), having all been suggested. The veil which divided the compartments was made of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen - the same materials as were employed in constructing the tabernacle vail (Exodus 26:31) - and was ornamented with similar cherubic figures. The precious stones wherewith the walls were garnished are not mentioned.
2. The porch.
(1) Its situation: in front of the house.
(2) Its dimensions: 20 cubits broad, 120 high, and 10 long (1 Kings 6:3).
The disproportion between the ground measures and the altitude has suggested the existence in this place of an error (Keil), or of an intentional exaggeration (Bertheau), though Josephus appears to have regarded it as literally correct ('Ant.,' 8:3. 2). Ewald, who upholds the text as genuine, thinks of a tower rising above the porch to the height of 120 feet ('History of Israel, '3:236); but this is far from probable, indeed statically impossible, and must be rejected. On the assumption of a corrupt text, the question remains how high the porch was. Some say 20 cubits (Keil), or 10 lower than the house; others 30, i.e. the exact height of the house (Bertheau); a third 23, at least as high as the pillars (Merz, in Herzog; Schurer, in Riehm).
(3) Its ornaments. Its interior was overlaid with fine gold (ver. 4); its entrance guarded by two massive columns.
3. The pillars.
(1) Their names: that on the right Jachin, or, "He shall establish," meaning that in this shrine Jehovah would henceforth permanently abide (1 Kings 8:13; Psalm 87:5; Psalm 139:14), or that through this would the kingdom be henceforth immovably established (Psalm 89:5); that on the left Boaz, signifying "In him, or in it, is strength," and pointing perhaps to the fulness of heavenly might that resides in him who is the sanctuary's God (Isaiah 45:24), or to the consolidation which should henceforth be given to the kingdom through the erection of this temple (Psalm 144:14). Other explanations have been given, as that Jachin and Boaz were the names of the donors or builders of the pillars (Gesenius), or of two youthful sons of Solomon (Ewald), or that the two words should be read together, as if both were inscribed on each pillar, "He will establish, or may he establish, it with strength" (Thenius). Least acceptable of all solutions is that of the Fathers, that the two names were intended to point to the two natures in Christ, in whom, though appearing in a lowly garb of humanity, dwelt the fulness of Divine strength.
(2) Their height: thirty-five cubits, inclusive of the chapiter of five cubits with which each was crowned (ver. 15); each shaft eighteen cubits, and each crown five cubits, or both together twenty-three cubits (1 Kings 7:15, 16; Jeremiah 52:21; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 7:3. 4). It has been suggested that, as twice 18 are 36, the Chronicler should be regarded as stating the length of the two columns together. But as this does not get over the discrepancy, it is better to recognize that the original text has suffered some corruption.
(3) Their position: before the temple. Whether within the porch (1 Kings 7:21), perhaps supporting the roof, or outside and apart from the building, is contested. (For the arguments on both sides, the Exposition may be consulted.) The ablest art scholars who have given attention to the subject have decided for the latter (see Riehm, 'Hand-worterbuch,' art. "Jaehin and Boaz").
(4) Their parts: first, a hollow column of brass, eighteen cubits high as above mentioned, twelve cubits in circumference, and of metal four fingers thick; and, second, a chapiter or crown of lily-work, i.e. a brass cup shaped like a fully-opened lily - the under part a belly-shaped band of network, bulging out between an under and an upper row of pomegranates strung on chains; above the upper row the lily-shaped cup, or crown, decorated all over with buds, flowers, and leaves like those of lilies.
1. The place due to religion in communities and individuals, the first.
2. The quality of service given to God and the Church, the best.
3. The power of art to express the ideas and emotions of religion. - W.
I. OBEDIENCE; the intelligent carrying out of Divine direction. Close and careful correspondence with the commandment was more particularly enforced under the Mosaic dispensation (Hebrews 8:5). Solomon was careful to do as he was "instructed for the building" (ver. 3); the dimensions were determined "by the first measure" (ver. 3); he was concerned to act obediently. In the service of Christ, while there is very little indeed of prescription or proscription as to the details of devotion or the particulars of Divine service, we shall be careful to consult the will of Christ in everything. The mind of our Master, and not our own individual preference, should be the main consideration in all Christian effort: we shall gain a knowledge of his mind by a devout and intelligent study of his life and of his words, and of those of his apostles.
II. SPONTANEITY. This is not any wise inconsistent with obedience, and it was not absent even from the building of the temple, in which there was, necessarily, so much of careful and detailed prescription. Solomon" garnished the house with precious stones" (ver. 6), and these had been furnished by the spontaneous liberality of David and of his people (1 Chronicles 29:2, 8). In the service of our Saviour there is ample room for the play of spontaneous devotion. We may bring to his sacred cause the "precious stones" of our most reverent and earnest thought, of our most fervent feeling, of our most eloquent and convincing speech, of our most self-denying labour, all uncommanded and unconstrained, all prompted by a pure and keen desire to serve our Lord and bless our brethren.
III. BEAUTY. These precious stones were "for beauty "(ver. 6), and the abundance of gold would also add to the beauty of the building, as seen from the inside. Every "house of the Lord" which we build should be Fair and comely as well as strong. Happily for us, the beauty in which God delights is not pecuniarily costly; it is that which the poorest may bring to the sanctuary and the service of his Lord. It is not found in precious stones which only the wealthy can secure; it is found in "a meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:3), in the spirit of true reverence and pure devotion (John 4:23), in patient endurance under wrong (1 Peter 2:19, 20), in patient continuance in well-doing (Romans 2:7), in a broad and deep Christian charity (1 Corinthians 13.). These are the beauties which adorn our character and make our service well-pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour.
IV. THOROUGHNESS. The strong timber which Solomon used was "overlaid with pure gold" - with the precious metal, and that of the best kind. Nothing was spared that could give strength, solidity, perfectness to the building now erected. It was built, not for a few years, or for a generation, but for long centuries; to stand the force of the elements of nature; to remain strong and fair when children's children in distant times shored come up to Zion to see the house of the Lord and to enter into its courts. All work that we do for our Divine Redeemer should partake of this character. It should be thorough; it should be of the very best that we can offer; it should be of "pure gold." Not our weakness, but our strength; not our exhaustion, but our freshness; not our crudeness, but our culture; not our ignorance, but our information and acquisition - our very best self should we bring to our Lord who gave himself for us. With the choicest materials we can furnish, in the exercise of our faculties at their fullest, should we build up his sacred cause who lavished his strength and laid down his life on our behalf. - C.
1. Certainly not the Divine. Nothing is more improbable, indeed nothing is more incredible, than that in the holy place of the temple there should be anything artistic intended to portray or represent the Deity. That would have gone far to unteach the very truth which was so carefully taught by every Mosaic institution.
2. As certainly not the animal and irrational. Part of these creatures may have belonged to the unintelligent world; but if it were so, it would only be to represent some virtue or power of which that particular animal was suggestive.
3. Probably the highest form of creature-life, human or angelic; either man at his best, when endowed with nobler powers than he possesses here, or else the holy and pure intelligences which belong to that great realm that intervenes between the human and Divine. And the idea is that, as we reach the very noblest forms of life, we find these in the near presence of God and engaged in his study and service. To what shall we do well to aspire? Where shall we dwell when we touch our culminating point? In what activities shall we be then engaged? To these questions the cherubim provide the answer.
I. IN THE NEAR PRESENCE OF GOD. The cherubim were, day and night, in the most holy place, close to the sacred ark, very near to the manifested presence of God. Life, at-its very highest, is life that is spent with God; in which the spirit is conscious of his nearness to itself. God was not more truly present at Bethel than elsewhere; but to Jacob that was the very "house of God," because there he felt himself to be in the very presence of the Holy One. And it is just as we realize that, step by step along all our earthly course, moment by moment through all our earthly life, God is truly with us and we are the objects of his thought and his love - it is in that proportion that our life rises to its true stature, and we are not only men, we are sons of God, we are "living ones" whose home is on the earth, but whose citizenship is in heaven.
II. IN THE SUSTAINED STUDY OF GOD. The faces of these cherubim were "inward" (ver. 13). They turned toward the manifested presence; they gazed continually on God. God was the Object of their ceaseless thought, of their fixed and settled study. Just as we truly live, this will be so with us. We shall wish to know ourselves, and shall study our human nature in all its varied manifestations; we shall wish to know all we can learn of the visible universe, and shall delight to search its secret stores, its beauties, and its marvels. But we shall feel that the one object that is, far above all others, worthy of our most earnest and patient study, is the character, the life, the will, the working of our heavenly Father. The noblest and truest study of mankind is God, and our life is life indeed as we are engaged in the reverent and the intelligent study of his mind and spirit. To us who "have the mind of Christ," and know the Father by our knowledge of his Son, this grand privilege is open.
III. IN THE ACTIVE SERVICE OF GOD. A full description is given of the wings of the cherubim. Why? Is it not to indicate that they stand ready, with their full powers outstretched, to do the bidding of Jehovah? The highest life is in the fullest service. As we serve we live. Even the "living ones' of the celestial kingdom find their nobility, not in commanding, but in fulfilling and in achieving. The attitude of the highest intelligences we can conceive and depict is that of perfect readiness to carry out the commandments, to do the work, to promote the kingdom of God. It wilt be thus that we too shall attain our highest. Not by receiving that which is most costly, not by enjoying that which is most pleasant; but by eagerly and faithfully doing that which is most worthy and most Divine. - C.
strength; the decorations which they bore speak of beauty. Standing where they stood, in or at the porch of the house of the Lord, they were standing monuments of the two closely related truths -
I. THAT WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE IN GOD HIMSELF STRENGTH AND BEAUTY.
1. Strength. Our temptation is to trust in the strong barrier of sea or mountain range; in the powerful army and navy with all their equipments; in the vigorous and sagacious policy of our statesmanship; in the amplitude of pecuniary resources, etc. But the strength of a country, as also of a man, is in God. If his favour is turned away, all our material advantages will fail us. Rabshakeh's multitudes of armed Assyrians disappear at the stroke of the God of Israel; the rich man, with his full barns and his cherished plans, leaves his wealth behind him when God says, "Thy soul is required of thee." But to the faithful Hezekiah the favour of Jehovah proves an ample shield against the threatening enemy. And they are blessed who "walk in the light of God's countenance;" for he is "the glory of their strength: and in his favour shall their horn be exalted" (Psalm 89:15, 17). The wise nation and the wise man will not look complacently around them to find the secret and source of their strength; they will look up toward him that dwelleth in the heavens, and say, "Jachin; Boaz;" "he will establish;" "in him is strength.'
2. Beauty. We are inclined to boast of the beauty of the landscape; or of the persons of our sons and daughters; or of our palaces and castles and cathedrals; or of our "pleasant pictures," and fair gems and jewels. But our delight should be, first and most, in him whose Divine character is perfect; who unites in himself, with completest symmetry, all possible attributes; who is as merciful as he is pure; who is as pitiful as he is righteous; who is as gentle as he is strong; whom we can not only adore and honour, but delight in and love. We go to the house of the Lord that we may behold "the beauty of the Lord" (Psalm 27:4); and especially that we may dwell upon the beauties and the glories of the character of that Son of man who was "holy, harmless, undefiled," in whose mouth no guile was found, but in whose life every grace that can adorn humanity was seen by those that knew him.
II. THAT WE SHOULD SEEK FROM GOD OUR STRENGTH AND BEAUTY. The Israelites went up to the house of the Lord that by obedient sacrifice, by reverent worship, by believing prayer, they might secure the favour of the Most High. If we would gain from God the strength we need, and that spiritual excellency which is the true beauty of the nation and the individual, we must go to God to seek it. We must present ourselves before him from whom all strength and glory come. We must seek him
(1) in confession, and in Christ who is our Propitiation;
(2) in reverent worship;
(3) in earnest and believing prayer for his upholding power and for his shaping hand.
Then will he make us strong to overcome and to accomplish; beautiful to attract and to win. - C.