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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 8

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-11

The entrance of the ark 8:1-11

The Israelites regarded the ark as the throne of Yahweh. It was the place where He manifested His presence in a localized way and where He received the blood that atoned for the Israelites’ sins on the Day of Atonement. The ark had rested in David’s tabernacle in Zion since David had brought it from the house of Obed-edom (2 Samuel 6:17). It was the only item in the temple that was not new. Perhaps God did not change it to help the people realize that He, symbolized by the ark, had not changed. His person and methods of dealing with them at the mercy seat were the same as they had been.

The ceremony of installing the ark in Solomon’s temple took place during the Feast of Tabernacles. This was one of the feasts that the Mosaic Law specified that all Israelite males had to attend (Leviticus 23:33-36). This feast was a commemoration of the Lord’s faithfulness during His people’s wilderness wanderings. It looked back to their slavery in Egypt and forward to their establishment in the Promised Land. The bringing of the ark into the temple symbolized the fulfillment of that hope. Evidently Solomon waited for this feast in order to celebrate the dedication of the temple, and used the months following the completion of construction to furnish it and to prepare for the celebration. [Note: Gray, p. 193.]

What 1 Kings 8:3-8 picture is the symbolic enthronement of Yahweh as Israel’s King. Israel’s God now entered into His house. As mentioned above, the people did not regard the sovereignty of a human king as firmly established until he built a palace for himself. Now they saw the sovereignty of the divine King established over Israel. "To this day" (1 Kings 8:8) shows that the writer wrote this part of Kings before 586 B.C. when the Babylonian army destroyed this temple.

The ark housed the tablets of the Decalogue (Ten Commandments; Hebrews 9:4). The sole presence of the Law in the ark reemphasized the importance of the Israelites submitting to the Mosaic Covenant, which these tablets represented. That obedience would be the key to Israel’s success (Joshua 1:8). Formerly a pot of manna, symbolizing God’s faithful provision of the needs of His people, and Aaron’s rod that budded, symbolizing God’s confirmation of the Aaronic priesthood, had rested near the ark in the tabernacle.

The shekinah (from the Hebrew root translated "to dwell") cloud (Exodus 19:9; Exodus 24:15-16), symbolic of Yahweh’s presence, filled the temple. It had also filled the tabernacle at its dedication (Exodus 40:34-35). [Note: See George R. Berry, "The Glory of Yahweh and the Temple," Journal of Biblical Literature 56 (1937):115-17.] The Israelites perceived that their God had come to dwell among them and to bless them with His presence. Even priestly ministry was impossible during this glorious revelation of Yahweh. All that the people could do was worship.

Verses 1-66

5. The temple dedication ch. 8

This chapter climaxes the writer’s emphasis on the greatness of Yahweh as Israel’s God. It is the most detailed account of a dedication service in the Bible. It is also one of the most theologically significant texts in 1 and 2 Kings.

Verses 12-21

Solomon’s address to the people 8:12-21

God previously said He would dwell in the cloudy pillar (Leviticus 16:2). Solomon hoped God would now dwell in the temple forever (i.e., from then on).

Solomon emphasized the desire of David’s heart to build the temple (1 Kings 8:17-18). God raised up Solomon to do that, as He had promised. The temple was a house for the reputation (name) of Yahweh; it made a statement about Him. "Name" occurs 14 times in 1 Kings 8:16-20. The Mosaic Covenant was the basis of Israel’s ongoing fellowship with God (1 Kings 8:21). Solomon demonstrated humility and gratitude in what he said.

"This statement reflects the strong emphasis placed on justice in the theology of the Old Testament. Since God is just, He expects His representatives to be just also. The Temple was to be a place where this was recognized." [Note: Homer Heater Jr., "A Theology of Samuel and Kings," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, p. 128.]

Verses 22-53

Solomon’s prayer of dedication 8:22-53

This great prayer centers on the Mosaic Covenant. That is its heart. It is the longest prayer in the Bible. Solomon introduced seven petitions with a backward look emphasizing God’s faithfulness (1 Kings 8:23-26). He concluded with a forward look stressing God’s mercy (1 Kings 8:52-53).

Solomon’s posture of kneeling with open hands uplifted to heaven (1 Kings 8:52) symbolized his heart attitude, as posture often does in prayer. [Note: See Thomas L. Constable, Talking to God, pp. 72, 159-60.] He, the earthly king, placed himself in a supplicant’s position before the heavenly King, dependent and eager to receive the blessings he requested.

Seven petitions follow a general request that God would hear the prayers of His people (1 Kings 8:27-30). In these verses Solomon voiced the truth that Yahweh did not really live on earth but in heaven (1 Kings 8:27). He did not confuse the symbols of God’s presence with God Himself (cf. 1 Samuel 4:3). Solomon referred to himself often as God’s servant (1 Kings 8:28-39, et al.).

Then he requested that God would grant mercy when His people turned to Him in situations involving violations of the covenant. These included personal sins (1 Kings 8:31-32), defeat in battle (1 Kings 8:33-34), drought (1 Kings 8:35-36), and famine (1 Kings 8:37-40). He next asked for God’s grace on God-fearing foreigners (1 Kings 8:41-43), as well as on the Israelites in battle (1 Kings 8:44-45) and after captivity (1 Kings 8:46-51; cf. Daniel 6:10). All the calamities Solomon mentioned in his prayer are curses God promised to send on Israel if she broke the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Leviticus 26:16-39; Deuteronomy 28:22; Deuteronomy 28:25; Deuteronomy 28:38; Deuteronomy 28:42; Deuteronomy 28:59; Deuteronomy 31:17; Deuteronomy 31:29; Deuteronomy 32:24).

As Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2:1-10) set the tone for all that followed in 1 and 2 Samuel, so Solomon’s prayer here does the same for 1 and 2 Kings. The remainder of 1 and 2 Kings shows how God answered Solomon’s prayer. That is why this chapter is so significant theologically. The possibilities that the king mentioned here eventually took place in Israel’s history, culminating in the Babylonian Captivity. Later in Israel’s history, the writing prophets frequently alluded to conditions that Solomon mentioned in this prayer, that came to pass in the prophets’ days because of Israel’s sins.

"Solomon’s prayer is essential to comprehend the message of the book. The author of the Book of Kings intended for the words of Solomon to be heard at a key point in the relationship between God and His people, that is, at the time the temple in Jerusalem was dedicated. The following words of Solomon’s prayer [1 Kings 8:47-48] would appeal to the exiles and would be a specific plea for repentance because of the hope of returning to the motherland. This is the essence of the book’s message." [Note: Gershon Galil, "The Message of the Book of Kings in Relation to Deuteronomy and Jeremiah," Bibliotheca Sacra 158:632 (October-December 2001):408.]

Verses 54-61

Solomon’s benediction on the people 8:54-61

This benediction began with a review of God’s past faithfulness (1 Kings 8:56). Solomon then voiced three wishes (1 Kings 8:57-59) with an explanation concerning his motive (1 Kings 8:60). He concluded with a challenge for the future (1 Kings 8:61). The three desires of Solomon’s heart were, first, that God would bless his generation with His divine presence (1 Kings 8:57). Second, he asked that He would give His people the will to walk in obedience to His covenant (1 Kings 8:58). Third, he prayed that God would keep Solomon’s requests dear to His heart (1 Kings 8:59). Solomon’s final appeal to the people was that they would devote themselves to Yahweh wholeheartedly and express that commitment by obeying His Law (1 Kings 8:61). Unfortunately Solomon himself failed to do this completely.

Verses 62-66

Solomon’s sacrifices 8:62-66

As a royal priest Solomon led the nation of priests in making an immense sacrifice to Yahweh. The sacrifices were all offerings of worship. The burnt offering represented the dedication of the worshipper’s person to God and secured forgiveness. The grain offering pictured the dedication of his work to God. The peace offering expressed the joy that resulted from the fellowship God had made possible with Himself and with the worshipper’s fellowman (Leviticus 1-3).

The number of offerings seems incredibly large, but contemporary extrabiblical records of other sacrifices that involved thousands of animals are extant. Perhaps the priests made sacrifices at other places outside the temple courtyard. People came from the far Northeast (Hamath) and the extreme Southwest (the Wadi el-Arish) to this feast. Solomon extended the celebration an extra week (1 Kings 8:65).

1 Kings 8:66 is very significant because it shows that because of Israel’s rededication in this covenant renewal ceremony, King Solomon enjoyed blessing from his people on whom he had brought blessing. The result was joy and gladness of heart for everyone. These are what God had promised in the Mosaic Law as consequences of commitment to His will. God blessed Solomon personally, and he became a channel of blessing to the nation he served because he committed himself to obeying God’s Word.

This was the biggest event in Israel, in terms of its theological significance, since God gave Israel the Law at Mount Sinai. Israel was finally in the Promised Land with her God enthroned in a place of great honor. Now Israel was in position to fulfill her calling as a nation in the world as never before in her history (cf. Exodus 19:5-6). The significance of this chapter becomes clearer when we read the Prophets section of the Old Testament. The writing prophets alluded to it often.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-kings-8.html. 2012.
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