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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 7

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

Thirteen years - The thirteen years, i. e., counting from the end of the seven 1 Kings 6:38. Solomon’s buildings thus occupied him twenty years 1 Kings 9:10; 2 Chronicles 8:1, from the fourth year of his reign to the twenty-fourth. The difference in the time taken by the temple and the palace is to be accounted for,

(1) by the long period of preparation which preceded the actual building of the former 1 Chronicles 22:2-4; 1 Kings 5:13-18; and

(2) by the greater size of the palace, which consisted of several large ranges of buildings. (See the next note.)

Verse 2

Many have supposed that the buildings mentioned in 1 Kings 7:1-2, 1 Kings 7:8, were three entirely distinct and separate buildings. But it is perhaps best to consider the “house” of 1 Kings 7:1 as the palace proper - Solomon’s own dwelling-house (see 1 Kings 7:8); the house of 1 Kings 7:2, as the state apartments; and the house for Pharaoh’s daughter as the hareem or zenana; and to regard these three groups of buildings as distinct, though interconnected, and as together constituting what is else-where termed “the king’s house” 1 Kings 9:10.

The house of the forest of Lebanon - This name was probably given from the supposed resemblance of the mass of cedar pillars, which was its main feature, to the Lebanon cedar forest. Its length of “a hundred cubits,” or 150 feet, was nearly twice as long as the entire temple without the porch. Some of the great halls in Assyrian palaces were occasionally as much as 180 feet.

The breadth “of fifty cubits,” or 75 feet, is a breadth very much greater than is ever found in Assyria, and one indicative of the employment in the two countries of quite different methods of roofing. By their use of pillars the Jews, like the Persians, were able to cover in a very wide space.

Four rows - The Septuagint gives “three rows.” If the pillars were forty-five 1 Kings 7:3, fifteen in a row, there should have been but three rows, as seems to have been the case in the old palace of Cyrus at Pasargadae. If there were four rows of fifteen, the number of pillars should have been sixty.

Verse 4

Either three ranges of windows, one above the other, on either side of the house; or perhaps the three ranges were one in either side wall, and the third in a wall down the middle of the hall, along the course of the midmost row of pillars. The windows were directly opposite one another, giving what we call a through light.

Verse 5

All the doors and posts - The doorways, and the posts which formed them, seem to be intended. These were square at top, not arched or rounded. In Assyrian buildings arched doorways were not uncommon. The doorways also, like the windows, exactly faced one another.

Verse 6

Probably the porch of the “House of the Forest.” Porches of columns immediately in front of columnar chambers were a favorite feature of Persian architecture. The whole verse should be translated, “And he made the porch of the pillars in length 50 cubits, and in breadth 30 cubits, and a porch before them (i. e., the pillars), and pillars, and a base (or step) before them.” Most of the Persepolitan porches had small pillared chambers at some little distance in front of them.

Verse 7

The porch or gate of justice still kept alive the likeness of the old patriarchal custom of sitting in judgment at the gate; exactly as the “Gate of justice” still recalls it at Granada, and the Sublime Porte - “the Lofty Gate” - at Constantinople.

Verse 8

Like unto this porch - i. e., of similar materials, hewn stone and cedar. The zenana could not have been a mere portico.

Verse 9

The stones were uniform - all cut to certain fixed measures of length, breadth, and thickness. They were not squared only on the face which showed, but also on the sides which fell within the wall and were not seen. Saws appear in Assyrian sculptures of the age of Sennacherib; and fragments of an iron saw have been found at Nimrud.

Verse 10

See the 1 Kings 5:17 note.

Verse 12

The palace, like the temple, had two courts 1 Kings 6:36, not, however, one immediately within the other. The lesser court of the palace seems to have been a private inner court among the buildings 1 Kings 7:8. The greater court was outside all the buildings, surrounding the palace on every side. Assyrian palaces had always such an external court, and had generally one or more inner courts or quadrangles.

Both for the inner court - By a slight alteration of the text, the meaning would be “as (was done) in the inner court, etc. and in the porch.”

Verse 13

Hiram - A man who bore the same name as the king of Tyre, a master workman, known as Hiram Ab, i. e. Master Hiram 2Ch 2:13; 2 Chronicles 4:16.

Verse 14

Hiram’s mother, while by birth of the tribe of Dan, had had for her first husband a man of the tribe of Naphtali. (Compare this verse and margin reference.)

All his work - The work that he personally did for Solomon seems to have been limited to metal-work, and indeed to works in brass. (See below, 1 Kings 7:45, and compare 2 Chronicles 4:16.)

Verse 15

These famous pillars, which were broken in pieces by the Babylonians when they destroyed Jerusalem 2 Kings 25:13; Jeremiah 52:17, were probably for ornament, standing by themselves under or in front of the porch. It is certain that the Phoenicians used isolated metal columns as sacred ornaments, so that Hiram would be familiar with such a mode of ornamentation. Eighteen cubits appear to have been the height of the shaft only. Adding the capital 1Ki 7:16, 1 Kings 7:19, the entire metal pillar was 27 cubits high; and if it had a stone base of eight cubits, which would not be greatly out of proportion, the height of 35 cubits (52 12 feet, 2 Chronicles 3:15) would have been reached. The height of some of the Persepolitan columns, with which these pillars may be best compared, is 67 feet. The circumference of 12 cubits (18 feet) implies a diameter of about 5 feet 9 inches at the base, which would make the column somewhat heavy in appearance. Egyptian pillars were, however, even thicker in proportion to their height. On the supposition that a portion of the original text has fallen out, this verse has been thus completed: “He cast two pillars of brass; eighteen cubits was the height of the one pillar, and eighteen cubits was the height of the other pillar; and a line of twelve cubits compassed the one pillar, and a line of twelve cubits compassed the other pillar.”

Verse 16

The general character of the “chapiters” or capitals, their great size in proportion to the shaft, which is as one to two, and their construction of two quite different members, remind us of the pillars used by the Persians in their palaces, which were certainly more like Jachin and Boaz than any pillars that have reached us from antiquity. The ornamentation, however, seems to have been far more elaborate than that of the Persian capitals.

Verse 17

Nets ... - Rather “Nets chequerwise, and festoons chainwise,” - probably a fine network over the whole, and chainwork hanging in festoons outside.

Seven for the one chapiter - The Septuagint reading is preferable. “A net for the one chapiter and a net for the other chapiter.” Compare 1 Kings 7:41.

Verse 18

The pomegranate was one of the most common ornaments in Assyria. It was used on quivers, on spear-shafts, and maceheads, in patterns on doorways and pavements, etc. It is doubtful whether a symbolic meaning was attached to it, or whether it was merely selected as a beautiful natural form.

Verse 19

There is a cornice of (so-called) lilywork at Persepolis, consisting of three ranges of broadish rounded leaves, one over the other. Lilies are also represented with much spirit on a bas-relief from Koyunjik.

Verse 20

In this verse also a portion of the original text is supposed to have fallen out in consequence of the repetition of words. The full phrase of the original has been retained in 1 Kings 7:16-17. It may be restored thus: “And the pomegranates were two hundred in rows round about upon the one chapiter, and two hundred in rows round about upon the other chapiter.” The “four hundred” 1 Kings 7:42; 2 Chronicles 4:13, are obtained by counting the pomegranates of both pillars together. In Jeremiah 52:23, is an account of the arrangement of a single row of pomegranates, whereof each pillar had two.

Verse 21

The Septuagint in the parallel passage (margin reference), translate Jachin and Boaz by Κατόρθωσις Katorthōsis and Ἰσχύς Ischus - “Direction” and “Strength.” The literal meaning of the names is given in the margin. The meaning was probably “God will establish in strength” (i. e. firmly) the temple and the religion connected with it.

Verse 23

The “molten sea “of Solomon, so called from its great size, took the place of the laver of the tabernacle Exodus 30:18-21, which was required for the ablutions of the priests. It was ten cubits, or fully fifteen feet, in diameter at top, and therefore forty-seven feet in circumference, with a depth of 5 cubits, or 7 12 feet. As a vessel of these dimensions, if hemispherical, would certainly not hold 2,000 1 Kings 7:26, much less 3,000 2 Chronicles 4:3 baths, the bath equaling 8 12 gallons, it is now generally supposed that the bowl bulged considerably below the brim, and further, that it had a “foot,” - or basin which received the water as it was drawn out by taps from the bowl. The “2,000 baths” may give the quantity of water ordinarily supplied to the “sea;” the “3,000 baths” the utmost that the laver could anyhow take. Bowls of a considerable size are represented in the Assyrian bas-reliefs; but none of such dimensions as Solomon’s. The largest mentioned by the Greeks held only 5,400 gallons, less than one-third of the contents of the “molten sea,” even according to the lowest estimate.

Verse 24

Knops - literally, “gourds,” - i. e. a boss or ball ornament encircled the rim of the bowl in two rows.

Verse 25

Josephus charged Solomon with a breach of the Commandment Exodus 20:4-5, on account of the oxen here and the lions for his throne. The charge expresses the prohibition which some Jews have conceived the Commandment to urge against the arts of sculpture and painting.

Verse 26

The palm or hand-breadth seems to have a little exceeded three inches.

With flowers of lilies - Rather, “in the shape of a lily flower.” The rim was slightly curved outward, like the rim of an ordinary drinking-cup, or the edge of a lily blossom. See 2 Chronicles 4:5 margin.

Verse 27

Ten bases of brass - These were for the ten lavers (1 Kings 7:38. See 2 Chronicles 4:6). In general terms the bases were square stands, 6 feet each way, and 4 12 feet high, elaborately ornamented on their four sides, and resting upon four wheels, 2 14 feet in diameter. Each stand supported a laver 6 feet high, which contained 40 baths 1 Kings 7:38, or about 340 gallons.

Verse 28

Borders - Rather, “panels” (so 1 Kings 7:32, 1 Kings 7:35), a set of square compartments between the “ledges” or borders, or mouldings. Below the panelling, with its ornamentation of lions, oxen (the two animal forms which occur most frequently in Assyrian decoration), and cherubim, was a space decorated with “additions of thin work” 1 Kings 7:29.

Upon the “ledges” 1 Kings 7:29 which surrounded the top of the base there was a stand for the laver, distinct from the upper surface of the base.

Verse 30

Plates of brass - Rather, “brazen axletrees.”

The “undersetters” (literally, “shoulders”) are conjectured to have been four brackets, or bars, proceeding from the four upper corners of the bases, and stretching upward to the outer rim of the laver, which thus rested partly upon them.

At the side of every addition - Rather, “each opposite garlands.” The laver was ornamented with a garland at the place where the support reached it.

Verse 31

It seems impossible to determine what is meant by the “mouth” of the laver, or what by its “chapiter.”

Verse 32

With the diameter (2 14 ft.) of the wheel here, may be compared that of the earliest Assyrian chariot-wheels, which was under 3 feet; and that of the front wheels seen in representations of Assyrian close carriages, which scarcely exceed 14th of the height of the entire vehicle. The wheels of these moveable lavers appear to have been a little less than 15th of the height of the whole structure.

Verse 34

The undersetters were cast with the base, not afterward attached to it, and were therefore stronger and better able to support the laver.

Verse 35

A round compass - A circular elevation, half a cubit high, rather than a circular depression, half a cubit deep. Compare 1 Kings 7:29. The “ledges” and “borders” of the top of the base were its “hands” and its “panels.” These “hands,” distinct from the “shoulders” 1 Kings 7:30, were probably supports, adorned with engraved plates 1 Kings 7:36, either of the elevated circle on which the laver stood, or of the lower part of the laver itself. Both panels and “hands” were “of the same,” i. e. of one piece with the base, cast at the same time.

Verse 36

According to the proportion of every one - i. e. “as large as the room left for them allowed,” implying that the panels were smaller than those on the sides of the base, and allowed scant room for the representations.

Verse 38

Every laver was four cubits - Assuming height to be intended, and taking the cubit at 20 inches, the entire height of the lavers as they stood upon their wheeled stands would seem to have been 13 ft. 9 in. It is evident, therefore, that the water must have been drawn from them, as from the “molten sea,” through cocks or taps.

Verse 40

Lavers - Rather, according to the true reading, “pots.” (Compare 1 Kings 7:45; 2 Chronicles 4:16.) The “pots” were the caldrons in which it was usual to boil the peace-offerings. See 1 Samuel 2:13-14,

Verse 46

Succoth and Zarthan - See Judges 7:22; Judges 8:5, note.

Verse 47

The brass of which the two pillars, Jachin and Boaz, the brass sea, and the various vessels were made had been taken by David from two cities belonging to Hadadezer, king of Zobah 1 Chronicles 18:8.

Verse 48

See the note to 1 Kings 6:20 and notes at 2 Chronicles 4:19-22.

Verses 49-50

See the notes to Exodus 25:31-38. The “bowls” of 1 Kings 7:50 were the “bowls” for the tables Exodus 37:16, large vases containing oil for the lamps.

Verse 51

The things which David had dedicated - Not only the things described in 1 Chronicles 28:14-18, but also the spoil of the nations which he had subdued (margin reference), and also the vessels of gold, silver, and brass, sent him by Toi king of Hamath, on his victory over Hadadezer. Solomon now brought these into the temple treasury. A sacred treasury had been established at least as early as the time of Saul, to which Saul himself, Abner, Joab, and others, had contributed 1 Chronicles 26:28.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-kings-7.html. 1870.
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