2 Chronicles 4
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
He made an altar of brass. This is a simple sentence enough, but it is one which had a great significance to the people of God. For to that brazen altar they came for many generations, and there they either worshipped/ God and gained his Divine favour, or they failed to do the one and to secure the other. It was the place of sanctity or profanation, of victory or defeat. It, with the various regulations that applied to it and provisions that were made for it, taught them, and it teaches us -

I. THAT MAN MAY MEET WITH GOD, IN WORSHIP AND COMMUNION. God is not so far removed from us in his nature, nor are we so separated from him by our sin, but that he is willing to draw nigh to us, is indeed desirous of meeting us. He is the Infinite and Eternal One, imeasurably above us; but he is our heavenly Father, profoundly interested in us and mindful of us. He is the Holy One, who hates all manner of iniquity; but he is also the Merciful One, delighting to forgive and to restore. He, therefore, not only permits his human children to meet him at his altar, in the sanctuary, but he positively enjoins this as a sacred duty; he is displeased when we neglect to do so. But, apart from its obligatoriness, it is "a good thing" for us, an exalted privilege and a most valuable opportunity, "to draw nigh to God."

II. THAT THERE HE SHOULD SEEK GOD'S MERCY. This altar of brass was to receive sacrifices; and among these, sin offerings and trespass offerings were to be conspicuous. We are to draw near to the God whom we have grieved and wronged, with the language of confession on our lips, pleading the great sacrifice as a propitiation for our sin.

III. THAT THERE HE SHOULD DEDICATE (RE-DEDICATE) HIMSELF TO HIS SERVICE. Burnt offerings (holocausts) and peace offerings as well as sin offerings were presented at that brazen altar. In the house of the Lord we are to consecrate our whole selves to him, and are to recognize that all we have and are is his, to be spent in his fear and service.

IV. THAT HE MUST SEE TO IT THAT BOTH HIMSELF AND HIS SACRIFICE ARE PURE. In that "molten sea (ver. 2) the priests were to wash, that they themselves might be unspotted when engaged in their sacred work. And in the layers (ver. 6) they were to wash such things as they offered for the burnt offering," the "gifts and sacrifices themselves." Both offerers and offerings were to be perfectly pure when the Holy One of Israel was approached in worship. And with what purity of heart should we draw nigh to him now! It is only those who have "clean hands and a pure heart" that can "see God," or that will be accepted by him. It is only those who worship "in spirit" who worship him at all (John 4:24). And as now we all - the whole Christian community - are "priests unto God," and are charged to present "spiritual sacrifices" unto him, it becomes us to remember that both

(1) our own hearts and also

(2) our sacrifices, i.e. our thoughts, our feelings, our purposes, our vows, our prayers, our praises, must be "clean" and pure We must be clean who "bear the vessels of the Lord," who speak his truth, who lead his people in prayer to himself. And the spiritual "gifts" of all who worship him must be cleansed of all impurity, of all selfishness and worldliness, of all insincerity, of all unholy rivalry or envy, that they may "come up with acceptance" in the sight of God. - C.

There are many difficulties and disagreements about the spiritual significance of the temple furniture; but there is a general agreement as to the meaning of the "candlestick," or of these "ten candlesticks of gold" to which the text refers. As in the "Divine compartment" of the "most holy place" the Shechinah was the symbol of the Divine presence, and spoke of the Lord God of Israel as the one true Light of the world, so in the human department of the "holy place' these lights were the symbol of the Hebrew Church, regarded as the centre and source of light in the midst of surrounding darkness. And such it was. We may well regard ?

I. ISRAEL AS THE SOURCE OF LIGHT. Perhaps rather as the possessor than the source, for communication between neighbouring countries was very much more limited then than it is now; and it was in its later days that the Jew was such a traveller and such a propagandist. But from the time that God made himself and his will known to Moses, down to the birth of Christ, Divine truth was known in Israel as it was not known elsewhere, and "salvation was of the Jews," as our Lord declared. Comparing the theological and ethical ideas of the people of God with those of contemporary peoples, we see how really enlightened they were. And some of the most essential doctrines, on which all Divine wisdom, and all moral excellency, and all national prosperity, and all individual well-being must always rest, were carried by the worshippers of Jehovah to Egypt, to Persia, to Rome, to still more distant countries. The light that shone in the sanctuary went forth and illumined a large space.

II. THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH AS A SOURCE OF LIGHT. Said the great Teacher to his disciples, and through them to his Church for all time, "Ye are the light of the world." The Apostle Paul wrote to his converts at Ephesus, and through them to us, "Ye are light in the Lord." And it becomes us to do two things.

1. Manifest the great characteristic of light - purity. To "walk as children of light,... in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Ephesians 5:8, 9); as the servants of him who himself "is light, in whom is no darkness at all;" to be "holy as he is holy."

2. Discharge the great function of light - to reveal. To "make manifest" (Ephesians 5:13) those great verities which renew and sustain and ennoble us in heart and life. We are so to let our light shine that men may see our good works, and glorify our Divine Father. It does not take any prolonged study, or any range of experience, or any remarkable talent, to cause men to know the redeeming truths which restore them to God; which give them spiritual rest and abiding joy, and a hope that will not make ashamed; which build them up in manly virtues and in Christian graces; which prepare for the heavenly kingdom. Even the humbler disciples, who claim no rank in the community, may render this valuable service.

(1) By living a trite, faithful, earnest life, day by day, in the love of Christ;

(2) by speaking familiar Christian truth to those who are willing to hear it, this good work can be wrought. - C.

The significance of the table of shew-bread (of which Solomon, in his desire for fulness and richness of provision, now made ten) depends on its position and on the objects it was to sustain. The table stood in the "holy place," very near to the inner sanctuary, where the presence of God was symbolized; and it bore upon it the shewbread, or "bread of presence;" this was so called because it was "the shewbread before me always" (Exodus 25:30), continually in the presence of God. There were also some vessels (Exodus 25:29) which were probably intended to receive wine ("to pour out withal"), which was the ordinary accompaniment of bread, as the source of daily sustenance. The whole arrangement pointed to -

I. A CONTINUAL RECOGNITION OF DIVINE BOUNTY. The bread and wine which largely constituted and adequately represented the provision for the nation's need were placed in the near presence of God, as the One from whom they came. It was well that the Israelites should be continually acknowledging that the fruit of the field was of Divine origin. They were very mindful and very proud of the great gift of the manna, which was a palpable and very remarkable provision from above - a clear produce of the power and goodness of God. They would be in danger of thinking that there was less of the Divine in the annual harvest; for this was, in part, the result of their own labour, and came gradually, by ordinary and gradual processes of nature. But Divine goodness and power were as truly in the latter as in the former. From God himself came the soil, the seed, the sunshine, the rain, the airs and winds of heaven; from him came the power that made all these work together for the germination, growth, and ripening of the grain; from him also came the knowledge and the skill which enabled the farmer to cultivate his ground and to secure his harvest; it was also of God's goodness that he required of his children the putting forth of these powers, both of body and mind, on the exercise of which so largely depended their health and character. The shewbread and the wine, standing where they stood, were a perpetual acknowledgment that all things which sustained and strengthened the nation came from the Lord their God.

II. A SOLEMN DEDICATION OF HUMAN STRENGTH TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. It was significant enough that "pure frankincense [was to be placed] on each row" of the loaves or cakes (Leviticus 24:7). "The offering of incense was embodied prayer, and the placing of a vessel of incense upon this bread was like sending it up to God on the wings of devotion" (Fairbairn's 'Typology'). It was, therefore, "a kind of sacrifice," and is spoken of (Leviticus 24:7) as "an offering unto the Lord." To present to God those things which are the recognized sources of sustenance and strength, is to acknowledge that our power and our resources belong to him and should be paid to him; it is, indeed, solemnly to dedicate them to his service in formal worship. We do the same thing now in our harvest thanksgiving services, and when we sing in the sanctuary hymns ascribing all our comforts and all our well-being to the good hand of our God. We only "perform our vows" when we dedicate to God, in daily life, the strength and the possessions with which he has enriched us; when we live in grateful remembrance of his love, in cheerful obedience to his will. in active and earnest endeavour to serve his children and extend his kingdom. - C.

Sacred service may be of two kinds: it may be feeble, slight, slovenly, wholly incomplete and unsatisfactory; or, on the other hand, it may be vigorous, effective, thorough, commanding the esteem of men and securing the commendation of Christ. The way in which Solomon's temple was built brings before us the more excellent order of service. It was characterized by -

I. SOLIDITY. The "two pillars" (ver. 12), and the character of the timber and of the gold, are suggestive of strength and solidity. Our work for Christ should have no slightness about it; it should be good, solid, durable; work that will resist the disintegrating forces about us; that may be "tried by fire" and still endure (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). For such a result we must not be content with stirring the emotions; we must convince the judgment, must produce conviction in the soul, must reach and win the whole spiritual nature.

II. BEAUTY. The strong pillars were ornamented with pommels, with wreaths, and pomegranates (vers. 12, 13). Beauty as well as strength was in the building of the temple, and should be in the sanctuary of God, in the service of Jesus Christ (Psalm 96:6). We should introduce into the work we do for our Master all the graces that we can bring - meekness of spirit, unselfishness of purpose, conciliatoriness of tone and temper, excellency of workmanship. On the top of the pillars should be pomegranates; covering and adorning our service should be sweetness and loveliness of manner and of spirit.

III. FITNESS. "In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them" (ver. 17). That was obviously a more fitting place for such an operation than the near neighbourhood of the site of the temple. Everything in its own time and place. That which is wholly unfitted for the sanctuary may be quite right and altogether suitable and desirable in the hall or in the home. The fitness or unfitness of the surroundings of a work may make all the difference between the excellent and the objectionable, between the useful and the harmful.

IV. ATTENTION TO THE MINUTE. "Hiram made the pots, and the shovels, and the basins" (ver. 11). "And the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs, made he of gold, and that perfect gold" (ver. 21). Nothing was too small or too trivial to be made by this skilled artificer, or to be made by him with the best material. There is nothing we can do in the service of our Lord that is not honourable and worthy of our manhood; nothing that we should not do to the full height of our ability.

V. ABUNDANCE. (Ver. 18.) It is not right that we should do our work in Christ's vineyard in a spirit of perfunctoriness, as the workman who will do no more than is imperatively demanded of him. Ours is not a slavery; nor are we hirelings. We are the children of God; we are the friends of Jesus Christ; we are co-workers with him; his interests are ours also; we long intensely for the coming of his kingdom. We shall not do stintingly or grudgingly what we do for him. We shall not count the hours, or the days, or the weeks we spend in his service; we shall not measure the powers we employ for his glory. We shall gladly pour forth all our faculties, shall give in "great abundance" of our resources, that his Name may be extolled, and that he may be made "very high."

VI. PURITY. All these things were made "of pure gold" (vers. 20, 22); the flowers, etc., of gold, "and that perfect gold" (ver. 21). The purest gold that could be obtained was used. The thought, the feeling, the energy, that is most perfectly refined of all dross of earthliness and selfishness, should be brought to the service of the Divine Redeemer.

VII. CONTINUANCE. "Hiram finished the work that he was to make" (ver. 11). "The end crowns the work." Well is it for the Christian workman when, having endured all criticisms, having borne all rebuffs, having met and mastered all difficulties, having submitted to all disappointments, having cheerfully wrought all his labours and having struck his last stroke, he can say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." For him is a generous commendation and a large reward (Matthew 25:23). - C.

I. THE CHERUBIM. (Ch. 3:10-13.)

1. Their appearance. Colossal winged figures; but whether, like the cherubim of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:6) and of John (Revelation 4:7), possessed of four faces (of a man, of a lion, of an ox, of an eagle) and six wings, cannot be decided. Probably they had only one face, resembling that of a man. Unlike the cherubim in the tabernacle, which were "beaten out of one piece of gold" (Exodus 37:7), these were made of olive wood (1 Kings 6:23), presumably on account of its durability and firmness, qualities which induced the Greeks to select it as the best material out of which to construct idols (see Riehm, 'Handworterbuch,' art. "Oelbaum"). The woodwork was overlaid with gold.

2. Their dimensions. In height ten cubits (1 Kings 6:23); their wings were each five cubits long, or twenty cubits in all. They were thus twice as broad as high, and probably altogether double in size to those on the capporeth.

3. Their position. In the holy of holies, their feet upon the ground, their wings touching the walls on either side, and their faces directed towards the interior of the building, i.e. towards the holy place, whence only an intruder could enter the secret shrine. Underneath and between their outstretched wings, the ark, with the mercy-seat and the lesser cherubim, were subsequently placed (2 Chronicles 5:8).

4. Their meaning. That similar winged figures are met with in the mythologies and religions of Oriental peoples, in particular of the Egyptians and Assyrians, does not prove the cherubim of Jewish theology to have been derived from those. That in those the beast-figure prevails, while in these the human face predominates, marks an essential distinction between the two. Hence the notion that among the Hebrews the cherubim had no higher significance than such winged creatures had in Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon - were, in short, merely symbols of the underlying idea common to Oriental religions, that the life of nature is identical with the life of God (Bahr) - is to be rejected. So also is the opinion that they were purely mythical figures, like the Egyptian or Greek sphinxes (the former half-man and half-lion, the latter half-woman and half-lion), or like the colossal winged lions at the doors of Babylonian and Assyrian temples (Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and the Books of Moses,' p. 153; Schrader, 'Die Keilinschriften, p. 40). That they represented real beings is now generally believed (Hofmann, Kurtz, Keil, Kliefoth, and others), and appears implied in the passage where they are first mentioned (Genesis 3:24). That they belonged to the same order of super-terrestrial existences as the angels and the seraphim of Scripture seems a necessary inference, from the fact that all three - angels (Psalm 68:17), seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), and cherubim (2 Samuel 22:11; Psalm 18:10) - are depicted as attending Jehovah in his theophanies, or manifestations of himself to men. That they were different from angels may be inferred from the fact that these are never exhibited as winged, and are usually represented as Jehovah's messengers (Psalm 104:4), which the cherubim never are. It is not so certain that they were different from the seraphim, or shining ones (Isaiah 6:2): who in appearance, situation, and function resembled them, having six wings, appearing always in the vicinity of the self-revealing Jehovah, and proclaiming aloud the presence of his glory. Yet from the fact that they are commonly exhibited as bearers or upholders of the Divine throne (Ezekiel 1:26), whereas the seraphim surround the throne (Isaiah 6:2), it may be concluded that the two, though belonging to the same order, were not the same species of being (cf. Delitzsch on Isaiah to Isaiah 6:2). At the same time, whilst holding the cherubim to have been images intended to represent real existences, it need not be assumed that the actual cherubim had really the four faces of a man, of a lion, of an ox, and of an eagle. These belong to the department of symbology, in which supersensuous ideas are set forth in sensuous images. Hence, inasmuch as the human face represents the notion of intelligence, the leonine that of strength, the bovine that of endurance, and the aquiline that of keenness of vision, combined perhaps with the idea of swiftness of motion, the ascription of these to the cherubim can only mean that these heavenly beings were possessed of all the elements of a perfect life, and, as the crown and summit of creation, stood nearest God.

5. Their function. Comparing the Scriptures in which they are alluded to, the following may be regarded as the complex function performed by the cherubim:

(1) To proclaim the Divine pretence, so that, wherever they are or appear, God is (Psalm 18:10; Exodus 25:22; Ezekiel 1:26);

(2) to keep guard over places rendered holy by the Divine presence, so that no unholy person might irreverently intrude therein (Genesis 3:24); and

(3) to symbolize that only beings themselves perfect could stand in the presence of the glory of God (Revelation 4:8). All three functions may be said to have been performed by the colossal figures in Solomon's temple as well as by the smaller cherubim on the capporeth in the tabernacle (see Kurtz, in Herzog's 'Real Encyclopadie,' art. "Cherubim; "Riehm" in 'Handworterbuch,' art. "Cherubim;" Keil, 'Die Biblische Arehaotogie,' pp. 92, etc.).


1. Its material. Like the other articles in the interior of the house, it was made of cedar wood and overlaid with gold (1 Kings 7:48). That in the tabernacle was formed of shittim wood overlaid with gold; was two cubits high, one long, and one broad; was furnished with a covering, and horns of the same wood overlaid with gold (Exodus 37:25).

2. Its position.

(1) In the holy place; and

(2) immediately in front of the entrance to the holy of holies, i.e. before the curtain, or second veil.

3. Its use. As in the tabernacle (Exodus 37:29), so in the temple, it was intended for the burning of fragrant incense before the holy of holies day and night, to symbolize the adoration of Jehovah's worshipping people.


1. Their number. Ten. This was demanded by the larger dimensions of the temple in comparison with the tabernacle, which con-rained only one.

2. Their form. Each seven-branched, as in the tabernacle, i.e. consisting of a main stalk with three branches on either side, rising to the same height as that, each of the six branches and the middle stalk being crowned with a lamp (Exodus 25:31, etc.; Exodus 37:17, etc.).

3. Their ornaments. Bowls, knops, and flowers, as in the tabernacle candlestick, seeing that each in the temple was constructed "according to its form."

4. Their utensils. Snuffers and basins; the former to trim the wicks, the latter to receive what was removed by the process.

5. Their use. To keep a light continually burning in the holy place and before the holy of holies (Exodus 25:37; Exodus 27:20). Their material.

6. Of gold (ver. 7), pure (ver. 20), and perfect (ver. 21). In this, again, they resembled the candlestick in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31).

7. Their position. In the holy place, before the oracle, five on either side.

8. Their significance. To symbolize either

(1) the light of God's favour which the worshippers or the sacred community (represented by the priest who ministered in their name) enjoyed, when their sins had been first covered by the blood shed in the forecourt (Psalm 36:9; Psalm 89:15); or

(2) the illumination which the Spirit-enlightened Church of God, collectively and individually, should shed forth upon the world (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15).


1. Their number. Ten; in the tabernacle, one.

2. Their position. Five on either side of the holy place. The one table in the tabernacle stood upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the veil (Exodus 40:22).

3. Their material. Of gold (1 Chronicles 28:16).

4. Their purpose. To receive and set forth the shewbread, or the loaves of unleavened bread, twelve on each table, which were commanded to be set before the face of Jehovah continually (Exodus 25:30).

5. Their significance. To symbolize religious truths which it concerned Israel to know. The "face loaves" were so called, not because with them or the eating of them the sight of God's face was associated, but because they stood continually in God's presence as emblematic

(1) of the spiritual food Israel should present to God in the good works they should perform through Divine assistance, and

(2) of the spiritual nourishment pardoned worshippers should receive from God (Exodus 24:11).


1. Its position. In the interior of the fore court (1 Kings 8:22, 64).

2. Its dimensions. Twenty cubits long, twenty broad, and ten high.

3. Its material. Brass.

4. Its use. To offer thereupon the burnt offerings presented by the worshippers who came to the temple.

VI. THE MOLTEN SEA. (Vers. 2-5.)

1. Its appearance. A huge metallic basin, sup- ported on the backs of twelve metallic oxen - "three looking toward the north, three looking toward the west, three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east," all having their hinder parts inward. The basin had the form of a cup, decorated on the brim with flowers of lilies, underneath the brim with two rows of "knops," ten in a cubit, therefore with three hundred in all, compassing the basin around (ver. 4; cf. 1 Kings 7:28).

2. Its size. Ten cubits in diameter and thirty in circumference, five cubits high and a handbreadth in thickness, with a capacity of three thousand, or, according to a more accurate measurement (1 Kings 7:26), two thousand baths, i.e. upwards of twelve thousand gallons. With this may be compared the basin borne by twelve lions in the Alhambra at Granada, and the two giant sandstone vases which were found by Muller at Amathus in Cyprus, each of which was oval-shaped, thirty feet in circumference, had four handles, and rested on eight bulls, four in each half- round of the oval (see in Herzog and in Riehm, art. "Meer ehernes").

3. Its situation. Between the brazen altar and the porch, on the right side of the west end, over against the south of the court (ver. 10).

4. Its use. For the priests to wash in when they came to engage in the sacrificial worship of the sanctuary (ver. 6; cf. Exodus 30:19 - 21).

5. Its significance.

(1) The form and decorations of the vessel showed it was designed for priestly service. "Its form, that of an open lily cup, corresponded to its purpose. If all budding and blossoming signified holiness and priesthood (Numbers 16:7; comp. with Numbers 17:20, 23; Psalm 92:14), the flower named the white, i.e. the lily, must have been pre-eminently the priestly one" (Bahr).

(2) The twelve oxen on which it rested accorded with the same idea. Oxen were the principal sacrificial animals, especially for the priests (Exodus 29:10, etc.; Leviticus 4:3, etc.; Leviticus 16:11; Numbers 8:8). Twelve were selected, hardly for the sake of symmetry (Thenius), or to represent the twelve months of the year (Vatke), but, like the twelve loaves of shew- bread, and the twelve lions on Solomon's throne (1 Kings 10:20), to symbolize the twelve tribes of Israel, which also when in camp were placed, like the oxen, three to each quarter of the heavens (Numbers 2:2-31).

(3) The washing of the priests was emblematic of that inward spiritual purity without which none can approach a holy God, or render to him acceptable service (Isaiah 1:16; Hebrews 10:22).

6. Its history. In after years it was taken down from off the brazen oxen by Ahaz and set upon a pavement of stones (2 Kings 16:17); it was ultimately broken in pieces by the Chaldeans, and its brass conveyed to Babylon (2 Kings 25:13). The brazen oxen the Chaldean general transported as booty to the East (Jeremiah 52:20).

VII. THE LAVERS. (Ver. 6.)

1. Their material. Brass.

2. Their number. Ten.

3. Their position. Five on the right and five on the left of the brazen altar.

4. Their appearance. Basins resting upon bases or pedestals with wheels (ver. 14), of which a minute description is given in the First Book of Kings (1 Kings 7:27-37).

5. Their dimensions. Every laver or basin four cubits in diameter.

6. Their contents. Forty baths, or two hundred and forty gallons.

7. Their use. To wash the victims in when these were brought to the priests to be offered upon the altar. - W.

I. To WHOM IT BELONGED. To Solomon the king.

II. WHERE IT WAS SITUATED. In the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredathah, both of which were in the plain of Jordan.

III. BY WHOM IT WAS MANAGED. By Hiram the artist.

IV. THE FABRICS IT PRODUCED. The articles above described, all the vessels for the house of God. - W.

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