The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.Solomon's Temple
1 Kings 6-7
THESE chapters should be compared with 2 Chron. iii.-iv. indeed the whole story should be read in the various forms which it is made to assume in all the historical books, for without this survey of all the parts we might easily come to false conclusions regarding many of the details. In this matter of the history of the temple the Kings and the Chronicles must be considered as filling up what is lacking in each other, and only the whole can be taken as supplying a true basis of exposition.
These chapters are almost wholly devoted to a technical description of the temple and other building works of Solomon. It is profitable to compare the two chapters with the descriptions given in Exodus 25, Exodus 27, Exodus 35, and Exodus 38 of the building of the tabernacle, which may be taken as an outline of the construction of the temple itself in many important particulars. This account of the temple, too, may be compared with advantage with the prophetic vision which was granted to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 40-46).
The temple which Solomon built for the Lord was small as to mere arithmetical dimensions, but large when taken in its spiritual signification. "The length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits." It is curious to notice that the temple itself was in all its proportions the duplicate of the tabernacle, each dimension however being doubled, and the whole therefore being in cubical measure eight times the size of the house built by Moses. If the usual calculation of eighteen inches to the cubit be taken, the whole measurement would stand thus:—length ninety feet, width thirty feet, height forty-five feet. The temple was only a shrine for the ministering priests, the outer court, or outer courts, constituting the meeting place of the great assembly of the congregation. The temple relied for its magnificence not upon its size, but upon the costliness of the material, and the all but incalculable wealth of the decoration by which it was enriched and adorned. Mark the point of progress which has been reached in this historical development of the idea of the sanctuary. We have seen what the tabernacle in the wilderness was—how frail, yet how beautiful; we now see how substantial the temple is, how strongly founded, and how patiently elaborated in all its costly details. We see also that the dimensions of the sanctuary are doubled. This fact of the dimensions being doubled is full of moral significance. The idea of the sanctuary is making progress, more space is required for it; yet there is no undue haste, nothing of the nature of obtrusive encroachment but everything of the quality of steady and irresistible progress: as we see the enlarged dimensions we hear a great voice saying, "As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." The sanctuary is never diminished in size or in importance; it is a growing quantity; though growing sometimes slowly and almost indeed imperceptibly, yet the line is one of progress and never of recession.
"And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building" (vi. 7).
Here was a great erection which proceeded towards its accomplishment without noise or tumult. Yet there is nothing wrong in noise itself. In all preparation there must be signs of energy and restlessness and even of apparent confusion, yet a solemn and steadfast purpose may be running through all the energetic engagements. Who can tell how many preparations are going on in distant places, the full purport and use of which cannot be understood apart from the sanctuary which is being silently put up? This may be the meaning of many a war and controversy and distressing tumult. Whilst the heathen are raging, they may be undergoing a process of preparation for incorporation into the temple of God. God sitteth upon the floods, and all the uproar is controlled by himself. If we could have looked upon Lebanon at the time when the hewers of trees were engaged upon it, we should have seen nothing but confusion. Before the hewers of wood went to Lebanon that famous locality was proverbial for its beauty and fragrance. Lebanon was watered by the streams from the snowy heights when all Palestine was parched up. Now look at Lebanon when the fellers of trees are carrying out their purpose: how harsh the sounds, how crashing the fall, how like a devastation the whole appearance; looked at within its own limits, the scene is one that pains the heart. Was it for this violent overthrow that all this noble beauty was perfected? We must take the larger view, and turn not only to Lebanon but to Mount Moriah, and there observe what is being done with the material which Lebanon supplies. "Behold, I build an house to the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to him, and to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the Lord our God." Thus the two pictures must be brought together—the confusion on Lebanon, and the construction upon Mount Moriah. "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." The noisy timber-fellers and the quiet builders belong to the same great company of workers for the Lord God of Israel. The noisy men must not complain of the quietness of those who go about their work without making any noise; nor must the quiet constructors rebuke the energy of men without whose activity they themselves could not proceed to lay another course in all the sacred structure of the sanctuary. We need the son of thunder, and the son of consolation; the great wind, and the silent sun; the tempestuous rain, and the noiseless dew: all these must be considered as part of the great ministry which God has appointed for the accomplishment of his purposes upon the earth.
Now whilst the work is proceeding so quietly and satisfactorily, the voice of caution is heard from heaven:—
"And the word of. the Lord came to Solomon, saying, Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father: and I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel" (vi. 11-13).
A wonderful thing is this, that in the midst of labour God is constantly assuring us that his presence is conditional and that his blessing is therefore contingent upon our obedience. We are not to be so entranced by the progress of the work as to forget that it is God's work and not ours. Nor are we to be so pleased with the silent advancement of the kingdom of heaven as to suppose that there is no further need of energy and watchfulness on our part; the language of indolence would be: This temple will advance whatever I may do; it is useless therefore for me to put myself to inconvenience, or to undergo any process of costly expenditure; it is evident that the temple will be advanced, do or not do what I may; I will therefore take my ease, and let providence work out its own ends. Even when the temple was rising at Mount Moriah, the Lord came to Solomon with this admonition. There is always a great "If" in all the arrangements which God makes with his Church. We hold our position by our good conduct. The answer will not come down unless the prayer be first sent up. "If ye will fear the Lord, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the Lord your God. But if ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers." Notice the conjunction of the words in verse twelve—"If thou wilt walk... then will I perform." How continuous and how exacting is the discipline of life; on what a slender thread apparently hangs the fulfilment of all the divine promises; on the other hand, how rich is the reply of God to those who really walk in the way of his statutes and make it the business of their lives to fulfil all his commands. Very sweet are the words—" And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel." It would appear that the one object of the building of the sanctuary was that God might dwell among his people. "I will set my tabernacle among you.... I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore." Nor were these blessings confined to the Old Testament saints: they are the heritage and everlasting joy of the Christian Church. "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men: yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." No temple after the pattern of Solomon's magnificent sanctuary do we now rear, because we have come to the point in spiritual development in which the living temple is greater than any stones which can be made to symbolise it—"Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." If God promised not to forsake his people Israel, he has renewed his promise in relation to those who are in Christ Jesus his Son, partakers of his divine nature by the energy of a living faith—He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee;" Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." The living temple which is being built by the Holy Ghost is not left to be overthrown by the winds of the enemy, by tempestuous rains, or by the lightning of human anger; God having begun it will continue it, and complete it, and the temple of God shall stand sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.
It is curious to notice the use which is made of an image with which we became familiar whilst reading the earliest portions of the book of Genesis—the image, namely, of the cherubims.
"And within the oracle he [Solomon] made two cherubims of olive tree, each ten cubits high. And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other wing of the cherub: from the uttermost part of the one wing unto the uttermost part of the other were ten cubits. And the other cherub was ten cubits: both the cherubims were of one measure and one size. The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was it of the other cherub. And he set the cherubims within the inner house: and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubims, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house" (1Kings 6:23-27).
We cannot tell what the cherubims were. God "placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life," so we read in the book of Genesis. In Exodus we read—"Thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat." In Ezekiel we read—"He spake unto the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill thine hand with coals of fire from between the cherubims, and scatter them over the city. And he went in in my sight. Now the cherubims stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord's glory. And the sound of the cherubims' wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaketh" (1Kings 10:2-5). It is spiritually useful now and again to have the imagination challenged by problems which do not admit of immediate solution. We suppose ourselves to be acquainted with life in all its ranges and particulars, whereas we are being continually shown, even by science itself, that we have hardly begun the study of that greatest of mysteries. When we know all life we shall know God himself. All the life we do know, either with the naked eye or with the instruments of science, is but part of the eternity of God. We should need to bring all life together into one focus, into one massive and perfect completeness, before we could begin to form even an initial idea of what is meant by the life divine. We are not, then, bounded by such life as is represented by man, or beast, or fish, or bird; there is an upward as well as a downward line from man; and that upward line carries us in the direction of angels and principalities and powers, of glowing seraphim and cherubim that are radiant with knowledge. Along that line we cannot rise very far. It is something to know that far beyond anything we have yet known of life there are mysteries of existence which baffle our fancy, and yet stimulate our piety, creating within us a desire to grow up into the life of God in all things, and to see the universe from the point of view occupied by the Son of man himself.
"But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house" (1Kings 7:1).
A very curious thing this, that whilst Solomon was building the temple of God he was also building his own house. It does not follow that when a man is building his own house he is also building the temple of God; but it inevitably follows that when a man is deeply engaged in promoting the interests of the divine sanctuary, he is most truly laying the foundations of his own house, and completing the things which most nearly concern himself. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." No man loses anything by taking part in the building of the temple of God. He comes away from that sacred erection with new ideas concerning what may be made of the materials he is using in the construction of his own dwelling-place. The Spirit of God acts in a mysterious manner along all this line of human conduct. The eyes are enlightened in prayer: commercial sagacity is sharpened in the very process of studying the oracles of God: the spirit of honourable adventure is stirred and perfected by the highest speculations in things divine, when those speculations are balanced by beneficence of thought and action in relation to the affairs of men.
Turning again from the king's palace to the house of the Lord, we cannot but be struck with the grandeur of the appointments which Solomon made:—
"And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the Lord: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was, and the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the oracle, with the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs of gold, and the bowls, and the snuffers, and the basons, and the spoons, and the censers of pure gold; and the hinges of gold, both for the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the house, to wit, of the temple" (vii. 48-50).
The "altar of God" is the altar of incense. On that altar incense was to be burned morning and evening. To the Israelites the offering of incense typified the offering of worship which God would accept. The word "shewbread" properly means bread of the face or presence of God, called in the Septuagint version bread of offering or bread of presentation. This bread was clearly of the nature of a eucharistic offering, whereby man acknowledged that the whole sustenance of life is derived alone from God, and indicating in a way which the spirit only can understand that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding out of the mouth of God. The candlesticks were of pure gold; the flowers and the lamps and the tongs were of gold; the bowls and the snuffers and the basons and the spoons and the censers were of pure gold; the hinges of the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, were hinges of gold. All these things are to be taken typically when we come to apply them to the Christian Church. "The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." Every prayer is to be as pure gold. Every sermon is to be as an offering wrought in pure gold. Everything done in the sanctuary is to be done with the care of men who are entrusted with the charge of pure gold. There is to be nothing inexpensive, frivolous, worthless, careless in any part of the service of the sanctuary. The hinge and the altar, the spoon and the candlestick, the lamp and the bowl, are all necessary. Nor is one to be disparaged at the expense of the other. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." Am I a hinge upon the door of the sanctuary? Am I but as a bason or a bowl, or as a pair of snuffers, in the service of the temple? It is enough. We are all wrought out of the same precious gold and worked by the same Master. Let us rest in that sweet thought The hinge in itself may not be worth much, but it is part of the king's gold, and he will require an account of that gold when he comes to audit the affairs of time.
We now come to the close, so far as the building is concerned. We read, "so was ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the Lord"—(vii. 51). We read in the book of Exodus, "so Moses finished the work." By and by we shall read, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do," and later on we shall hear the words, "It is finished." There is a tone of melancholy in the words which announce even the completion of the temple. Who would not be always engaged in enlarging and perfecting the house of the Lord? Surely the builders could not turn away from the temple in whose building they would take no more part without sighing that their work was done. Has not many a commentator been made sad when he reached the last verse which he was expounding? Has not many an author owned that he was sorry to part with the imaginary characters whose history he had been tracing for many a day? Do we not feel also a pang at the heart when some long sweet interview as between friend and friend is ended? We should never forget that there is often more joy in the process than there is merely at the point of completion.
Herein is a great lesson for workers: they should find their heaven in their work, and not suppose that it comes at the end of their labour; the labour itself is the rest when the heart is attuned to the purposes of God, and the will can only find its rest in obedience to the commands of God. It is not every man, however, who is permitted to see the end of his work. How many die ere the topstone is brought on! How many true labourers have almost prayed to be allowed to see the completion of their ministry, either in speech or in literature, in the education of their families or in the consolidation of their business! To live but a few years longer, then the capital would be put upon the pillar, then the circle would be completed, and then the long rest of death might come. But we cannot tell how all this may be ordered by the divine hand. "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch:" "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." All we have to do is to hold our work as a divine appointment, to carry it on, to suspend it, or to lay it down just as God may please. He will make some compensation for the disappointment and the bitterness of the heart that longs to see the last touch put to the labour of a lifetime. Yes, blessed be God, we cannot tell how all that sorrow may be made up to us in the brighter scene. We may then be made to see how foolish we were and ignorant in wishing to remain outside heaven a little longer; yet who can tell but we may be shown that even in heaven we can do something towards completing the work we began on earth. Here we must simply stand, and wonder, and adore. Sometimes there comes a thought over the heart that it will be impossible that our connection with these present spheres and opportunities and relations shall be for ever dissolved. Then comes the sweet and consolatory thought that even from on high we may be permitted to do something, in a way not now known, and in a way not now to be measured, towards carrying forward to maturity the work which it was the joy and the very heaven of our life to take part in. But why distress our imagination with such inquiries, or wear out the heart with such solicitudes? "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." It is joy enough to be permitted to take any part in the work, without desiring to see that work completed in all its meaning. In the bright by and by of heaven, in the long, long days of celestial summer, in the peace and rest and ineffable quiet of the land on high, we shall see why it was that our work was interrupted, that the sentence we were just uttering was punctuated by death, and that the best things of our lives were intercepted and turned to apparent uselessness and ruin. We must wait—and we must hope!
The first who planned the erection of a stone-built sanctuary was David, who, when he was inhabiting his house of cedar, and God had given him rest from all his enemies, meditated the design of building a temple in which the ark of (God might be placed, instead of being deposited "within curtains," or in a tent as hitherto. This design was at first encouraged by the prophet Nathan; but he was afterwards instructed to tell David that such a work was less appropriate for him, who had been a warrior from his youth, and had shed much blood, than for his son, who should enjoy in prosperity and peace the rewards of his father's victories. Nevertheless, the design itself was highly approved as a token of proper feelings towards the Divine King, (2Samuel 7:1-12; 1Chronicles 17:1-14; 1 Chronicles 28.). We learn, moreover, from 1 Kings 5 and 1 Chronicles 22 that David had collected materials which were afterwards employed in the erection of the temple, which was commenced four years after his death, about b.c. 1012, in the second month, that is, the the month of Siv (comp. 1Kings 6:1; 2Chronicles 3:2), 480 years after the Exodus from Egypt. We thus learn that the Israelitish sanctuary had remained movable more than four centuries subsequent to the conquest of Canaan. "In the fourth year of Solomon's reign was the foundation of the house of the Lord laid, in the month Siv: and in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it."