SOLOMON’S TEMPLE 1 Kings 5–8
“The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)Prayer is to reflect our understanding of who God is, and how God relates to human beings. Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Jerusalem temple is a model of this element in prayer.
The Jerusalem temple. Israel was to have only one place of worship, to demonstrate the unity of God and access to Him solely through sacrifice. That place was fixed in Jerusalem, at a temple Solomon constructed. Old Testament Law required that prescribed sacrifices for sin and worship be made only on the altar of the Jerusalem temple. God graciously “put His presence” there as a symbol of covenant love and a place for prayer and worship. The temple Solomon built in Jerusalem lasted until the destruction of that city in 586B.C by the Babylonians. Later, when a group of captives returned from Babylon, a smaller temple was erected on the same site (Hag. 2:1–9). In the first century, this “second temple” was greatly expanded and beautified by Herod the Great, who took 46 years to reconstruct it. The second temple, where Jesus worshiped and taught, was destroyed by the Roman army in 70A.D The lack of a temple and altar today means that modern Judaism has no way to present the sacrifices for sin required under Old Testament Law. But the Prophet Ezekiel predicted that yet another temple will be built on the site in the days when the Messiah returns to rule the world (Ezek. 43:7).
Solomon organized his building effort (5:1–17). Construction of the Jerusalem temple began his fourth year (6:1–38). Solomon also constructed his own palace (7:1–12). The temple was furnished (vv. 13–51), and when all was ready Solomon brought the ark into the temple (8:1–21). He dedicated the magnificent edifice with prayer (vv. 22–61), sacrifice, and celebration (vv. 62–66).
Understanding the Text
“I intend . . . to build a temple for the Name of the Lord” 1 Kings 5:1–18. Solomon continued the friendship developed by David with Hiram, king of Tyre. That seaboard nation had lumber and skilled workers, but needed the grain that could be supplied by Israel. Solomon’s commitment to build God’s temple suited Hiram well. It did, however, place a strain on Israel’s resources. The text mentions “conscripted laborers.” Solomon relied on the “corvee,” a tax on time. The Israelite laborers gave four months of the year to Solomon’s projects, and had eight months to work their own farms. This early corvee of workers for the temple was justified. Later, when Solomon became intent on many additional building projects, it became a drain on the overall economy and a source of bitter complaint. “In the eleventh year . . . the temple was finished” 1 Kings 6:1–37. The illustration shows the finished temple, described in this chapter. It took seven years to complete. According to this chapter the whole interior was overlaid with pure gold. The Jerusalem Temple “The construction of his palace” 1 Kings 7:1–12. Solomon’s palace took 13 years to build. This is not because he viewed it as more important than the temple, or lavished more care on it. The palace complex had many buildings, a mix of public administrative centers and private dwellings. Also, David had spent his last years gathering resources for the temple, which considerably shortened the time it took for Solomon to complete the building. It was God’s decision to bless Solomon with great riches. We can hardly criticize how Solomon chose to use them. There is nothing wrong with being rich today—as long as, like Solomon, the rich person puts God’s will first. “A craftsman in bronze” 1 Kings 7:13–51. Here, as frequently in the Old Testament, “bronze” stands for every kind of metalwork. It is not possible to make accurate drawings of the temple furnishings from the description given here. What is clear is that no expense was spared. Solomon was committed to honor God by making His temple the most beautiful and expensive edifice possible. “I have provided a place there for the ark” 1 Kings 8:1–21. The ark of the covenant was the most holy object in Israel’s religion. It was there alone, on the top of this golden box, that sacrificial blood was spilt on the Day of Atonement, and “every sin” of Israel forgiven (Lev. 16). The ark was thus the one place on earth where the holy God met sinful men. The temple, as magnificent as it was, had meaning only because it housed the ark, on which God’s presence rested. All our magnificent cathedrals, all our mighty organs and stained glass windows, have meaning only if they serve as a place of meeting between God and a people who come to worship Him through Jesus Christ. And, if Jesus is there, present in the hearts of the congregation, a barn can serve just as sacredly as a church building.
Prayer and God’s Character (1 Kings 8)
“It’s frustrating.” Sue was talking about her class of adults and her difficulty in getting any of them to pray aloud. “They just don’t seem to know much about prayer. And they sure aren’t going to pray aloud when others are there.” I suppose it’s even more frustrating for the women in her class. Wanting to pray. Feeling a need for prayer. But not feeling able to even try. For anyone who feels a little like that—uncertain, hesitant—Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple can help. Solomon rooted his prayers in his understanding of what God was like. Knowing God, he knew something about how to pray. Solomon knew that God is a faithful Person, who keeps His promise. So Solomon could claim the promises of God, and ask the Lord to keep them (vv. 23–26). Solomon knew that God filled the universe, and yet bent to hear the prayer of a single individual. So Solomon could ask God to hear the prayers his people offered at the temple (vv. 27–30). Solomon knew that God is moral Judge of His universe. So Solomon could ask God to punish the guilty and discharge the innocent (vv. 31–32). Solomon knew that God forgives those who confess sin to Him. So Solomon could ask God to restore Israel’s fortunes when His people repented (vv. 33–34). Solomon knew that God is all-powerful, exercising sovereign control over all that happens on earth. So Solomon could ask God to intervene and act when His people faced disaster (vv. 35–40). Solomon knew that God loves all humankind. So Solomon could ask God to bless even the foreigner who comes to Him in prayer (vv. 41–43). Solomon knew that God is for His people. So Solomon could ask God to help them in wartime (vv. 44–45). Solomon knew that God hates sin and yet loves the sinner (vv. 46–51). So Solomon could ask, no matter how great the sin or how terrible the discipline, that when God’s people returned to Him the Lord would forgive and restore their fortunes. And Solomon knew that God had singled out the people who were known by His name for endless love. So Solomon, and you and I, can be sure that God will hear and answer our prayers. We may not need to make the specific requests that Solomon made. But like Solomon we can let what we have learned about God guide us in our prayers. We can pray confidently, knowing that God will act in accordance with who He is, and in accordance with the great love He has for you and me.
When you don’t know what or how to pray, think about who God is, and let your thoughts of Him guide as you speak to Him.