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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 6

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

In the four hundred and eightieth year - It is upon this statement that all the earlier portion of what is called the “received chronology” depends. Amid Minor differences there is a general agreement, which justifies us in placing the accession of Solomon about 1000 B.C. (1018 B.C. Oppert.) But great difficulties meet us in determining the sacred chronology anterior to this. Apart from the present statement, the chronological data of the Old Testament are insufficient to fix the interval between Solomon’s accession and the Exodus, since several of the periods which make it up are unestimated. Hence, chronologists have based entirely the “received chronology” upon this verse. But the text itself is not free from suspicion.

(1) it is the sole passage in the Old Testament which contains the idea of dating events from an era.

(2) it is quoted by Origen without the date, and seems to have been known only in this shape to Josephus, to Theophilus of Antioch, and to Clement of Alexandria.

(3) it is hard to reconcile with other chronological statements in the Old and New Testament.

Though the books of Joshua, Judges, and Samuel furnish us with no exact chronology, they still supply important chronological data - data which seem to indicate for the interval between the Exodus and Solomon, a period considerably exceeding 480 years. For the years actually set down amount to at least 580, or, according to another computation, to 600; and though a certain deduction might be made from this sum on account of the round numbers, this deduction would scarcely do more than balance the addition required on account of the four unestimated periods. Again, in the New Testament, Paul (according to the received text) reckons the period from the division of Canaan among the tribes in the sixth year of Joshua Joshua 14:1-15, to Samuel the prophet, at 450 years, which would make the interval between the Exodus and the commencement of the temple to be 579 years. On the whole, it seems, therefore, probable that the words “in the four hundred and eightieth year, etc.,” are an interpolation into the sacred text, which did not prevail generally before the third century of our era.

Verse 2

The size of Solomon’s temple depends upon the true length of the ancient cubit, which is doubtful. It has been estimated as somewhat less than a foot, and again as between 19 and 20 inches, a difference of nearly 8 inches, which would produce a variation of nearly 40 feet in the length of the temple-chamber, and of 46 in that of the entire building. It is worthy of remark that, even according to the highest estimate, Solomon’s temple was really a small building, less than 120 feet long, and less than 35 broad. Remark that the measures of the temple, both “house” and porch 1 Kings 6:3, were exactly double those of the older tabernacle (Exodus 26:18 note). This identity of proportion amounts to an undesigned coincidence, indicating the thoroughly historical character of both Kings and Exodus.

Verse 4

Windows of narrow lights - Either (as in the margin) windows, externally mere slits in the wall, but opening wide within, like the windows of old castles: or, more probably, “windows with fixed lattices.” The windows seem to have been placed high in the walls, above the chambers spoken of in 1 Kings 6:5-8.

Verse 5

Chambers - (Margin, floors). Rather, a lean-to, which completely surrounded three sides of the building, the north, the west, and the south.

Verse 6

In order to preserve the sanctity of the temple, and at the same time allow the attachment to it of secular buildings - sleeping apartments, probably, for the priests and other attendants - Solomon made “rebatements” in the wall of the temple, or in other words built it externally in steps, thus: The beams, which formed the roof of the chambers and the floors of the upper stories, were then laid on these steps or “rests” in the wall, not piercing the wall, or causing any real union of the secular with the sacred building. It resulted from this arrangement that the lowest; chambers were the narrowest, and the uppermost considerably the widest of all, the wall receding each time by the space of a cubit.

Verse 7

The spirit of the command (marginal references), was followed. Thus the fabric rose without noise.

Verse 8

The door for the middle chamber - i. e., the door which gave access to the mid-most “set of chambers.” The chambers on the ground-floor were possibly reached each by their own door in the outer wall of the lean-to. The middle and upper floors were reached by a single door in the right or south wall, from which a winding staircase ascended to the second tier, while another ascended from the second to the third. The door to the stairs was in the outer wall of the building, not in the wall between the chambers and the temple. That would have desecrated the temple far more than the insertion of beams.

Verse 9

He built the house, and finished it - i. e., the external shell of the house. The internal fittings were added afterward. See 1 Kings 6:15-22.

Covered the house - Roofed it with a wooden roof, sloped like our roofs.

Verse 12

The meaning is, “So far as this house goes, thou art obedient (2 Samuel 7:13; 1 Chronicles 17:12, etc.); if thou wilt be obedient in other things also, then will I perform My word,” etc., God’s promises being always conditional. The promises made to David were:

(1) that he should be succeeded by one of his sons 2 Samuel 7:12; Psalms 132:11;

(2) that the kingdom should be established in the line of his descendants forever, if they were faithful Psalms 132:12; and

(3) that the Israelites should be no more afficted as beforetime 2 Samuel 7:10.

These promises are now confirmed to Solomon, but on the express condition of obedience, and two further promises are added.

Verse 13

The first promise to “dwell among” the Israelites had been made to Moses Exodus 25:8; Exodus 29:45, but had not been repeated to David. The next promise, “I will not forsake, etc.,” if not absolutely new, seems to have been more positive and general than previous similar promises Deuteronomy 31:6, Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:5. God will not at any time or under any circumstances wholly forsake Israel.

Verse 15

The description of this verse applies to the main chamber of the temple, the holy place, only. The writer in 1 Kings 6:16 describes the holy of holies.

The marginal rendering of this verse is right, and not the rendering in the text.

Fir - Rather, “juniper.” See 1 Kings 5:6 note.

Verse 16

The meaning is, that at the distance of 20 cubits, measured along the side walls of the house from the end wall, Solomon constructed a partition, which reached from the floor to the ceiling and had a doorway in it. He thus made within the house, a sanctuary for a holy of holies.

Verse 18

Knops and open flowers - Rather, “gourds and opening flower-buds.” Imitations of the vegetable world are among the earliest of architectural ornaments. They abound in the architecture of Egypt and Persia. In that of Assyria they occur more sparingly.

Verse 20

The fore part - Perhaps “the interior.”

And so covered ... - Rather, “and he covered the altar (of incense) with cedar.” The altar was doubtless of stone, and was covered with cedar in preparation for the overlaying with gold. This overlaying was not gilding, but the attachment of thin plates of gold, which had to be fastened on with small nails. Such a mode of ornamentation was common in Babylonia, in Assyria, and in Media.

Verse 21

The house - i. e., the main chamber.

The chains of gold - Omit “the.” Their object was to form a barrier between the holy place and the holy of holies.

Verse 22

The lavish use of the precious metals in ornamentation was a special feature if early Oriental architecture. Recent researches have given reason to believe that two stages of the great temple at Borsippa - now known as the Bits Nimrud - had respectively a gold and a silver coating.

Verse 23

Two cherubims - The pattern of the tabernacle was followed (marginal reference), but without servile imitation. The original cherubs were entirely of gold. These, being so much larger, were of wood, merely overlaid with a golden plating. The arrangement of the wings, and the direction of the faces, seem also to have been different. Moses’ cherubim “covered with their wings over the mercy seat;” Solomon’s stretched out theirs to the full 1 Kings 6:27, so that the four wings, each five cubits long 1 Kings 6:24, extended across the whole sanctuary, the width of which was twenty cubits 1 Kings 6:20. The former looked toward one another, and were bent downward toward the mercy-seat; the latter looked outward, toward the great chamber. (See 2 Chronicles 3:13, and note.)

Of olive-tree - The oleaster or wild olive, not the cultivated species.

Verse 29

Palms, cherubs, and flowers - the main decorations of Solomon’s temple - bear considerable resemblance to the ornamentation of the Assyrians, a circumstance which can scarcely be accidental.

Within and without - i. e., both in the inner chamber, or holy of holies, and in the outer one.

Verse 31

A fifth part - Better than the margin. The meaning seems to be that the lintel was one-fifth of the width of the wall, and each door-post one-fifth of its height. Thus the opening was a square of four cubits, or of six feet.

Verse 32

The two doors - i. e., two leaves which met in the middle, as in the Assyrian gate-ways generally.

Spread gold - The doors were not simply sheeted with gold, like the floors 1 Kings 6:30, but had the gold hammered to fit the forms of the palms, cherubs, and flowers carved upon them. 1 Kings 6:35. Such hammered metal-work, generally in bronze, has been found in tolerable abundance among the Assyrian remains.

Verse 33

The door of the temple - The door, that is, which led from the porch into the great chamber of the temple. Its posts were “a fourth part of the wall,” or, “five cubits high,” which was, therefore, the height of the doorway.

Verse 34

Fir-tree - Rather, juniper (1 Kings 5:6 note). Each door was made in two parts, which folded back one on the other like shutters, by means of hinges. The weight of the doors no doubt made it inconvenient to open the whole door on every occasion.

Verse 36

The inner court - An outer court is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 4:9. The inner court is probably identical with the “higher court” of Jeremiah Jeremiah 36:10, being raised above the outer, as were sometimes the inner courts of Assyrian palaces. The court seems to have surrounded the temple. Its dimensions may be reasonably presumed to have been double those of the court of the tabernacle, i. e., 100 cubits on each side of the temple, and 200 cubits at the ends; or, about 720 feet long by 360 broad.

With three rows of hewed stone - Either a fence enclosing the court, or the area of the court, which was possibly formed by three layers of hewn stone placed one above the other, and was then boarded on the top with cedar planks. Such a construction would no doubt be elaborate; but if it was desired to elevate the inner court above the outer, this is the way in which it would be likely to have been done. The temple would be placed, like the Assyrian palaces, on an artificial platform; and the platform, being regarded as a part of the sacred building, would be constructed of the best material.

Verse 38

Seven years - More exactly, “seven years and six months,” since Zif was the second, and Bul the eighth month. 1 Kings 6:1.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-kings-6.html. 1870.
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