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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

1 Kings 8

Verses 1-66

Solomon's Temple

1 Kings 8:11

The whole of this chapter is taken up with the account of the consummation of Solomon's magnum opus. The great work of his life, for the accomplishment of which he had been called to the throne, was the building of the temple. It was the sacred task bequeathed to him by his father David the cherished dream of David's later years, for which he had prepared with all his might.

I. I read the account of the elaborate and magnificent preparations for the temple and its building with mixed feelings. Its opening seems to have been the water-shed in Solomon's career and to have exhausted him. I picture to myself the vast crowd of poorly paid or unpaid workers chipping at stones, shaping the planks of cedar to cover them, beating out the gold to cover the planks, and the king's whole thoughts being taken up with it, and then I thought of Solomon's after career his decline and fall; the rending of the kingdom, the setting up of the calves at Dan and Bethel, the very little use that the temple was for so many years, and I found myself asking, 'Was it really worth while?' Would not something far simpler have sufficed? Was it the best policy to draw off the thoughts and labours of the people from other channels to this for so long, and to pour out wealth in such reckless expenditure on this elaborate scheme? And then other questions occurred. Is it in the most elaborate buildings that vital religion thrives? Take your stately English cathedral, which you delight to visit, and which is simply crammed with historical interest. You think of its wondrous arches, its pealing organ and sweet-voiced choir, of its prebendaries and canons, its dean and bishop, etc., would you, who know what vital religion means, contend that these places had played a supremely important part in conserving and spreading the cause of vital religion in our land, and that the society clustering about a cathedral close is preeminently spiritual? Is there not a subtle danger lurking in all these, a danger of which Solomon, with all his wisdom, seemed scarcely aware, namely, that men shall be enslaved by mere form, that they shall come to worship the work of their own hands or of other men's hands? To see and admire a building is one thing, to worship God and cry to Him for mercy and guidance is another.

II. On the other side there is much to be said. This, for example, that so far as we can see, the motive of Solomon was absolutely pure, and because of the purity of his motive the house was accepted, and the glory of the Lord filled it. And there is this to be said; that if God did not need a house Israel needed it, and that Solomon perceived, something to remind man, and that in a striking way, of the existence of God, of His holiness, of the fact that men needed Him and needed to pray to Him.

III. There are two further things that impressed me about the dedication of Solomon's temple. The first of these is the part he himself plays in the opening service. He sets aside conventionality and custom if not ecclesiastical law. It is not priest nor prophet that offers the dedicatory prayer but the king, and it is the king that blesses the people in the name of the Lord; the highest act of sacerdotal benediction. The chief thing, the vital thing in connexion with the proceedings of that great day, was the Cloud which indicated the Presence and Glory of the Lord.

C. Brown, The Baptist Times and Freeman, 26 July, 1907.

Reference. VIII. 12. R. E. Hutton, The Grown of Christ, p. 91.

Solomon's Prayer

1 Kings 8:13

The prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple is the supreme prayer, it is all prayer; there is not one little petition or supplication anywhere that cannot nest in this grand adoration and entreaty. It is a Bible in itself, it is the total revelation of God; a man spake it no man ever composed it. It is a recitation from the tablets of the heart; it is the wording and, so to say, the incarnation of a great movement of the Holy Ghost upon the whole nature of man; it stands alone; the stars pale before this diamond.

I. The prayer of Solomon was offered by a layman. All the great prayers of the Bible came from lay lips. There were priests enough at the dedication of the temple; they were present, they were silent; it was the layman, the man that prayed: and it is only the man that can pray. We cannot have official prayers, mechanized and scheduled prayers. Men can only pray now and then in great heart-cries and in great heart-breaking misery. Aaron was born dumb. It was Moses, the layman, the man, the great representative of human nature in its deepest need and sharpest pain. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended: was the son of Jesse an official priest? He was a man, a great man, a man with God in his heart. He offered the great poetic, ideal prayer; he struck the harp unto supplication and startled music into a new voice.

II. There is nothing in human nature or human need that is not to be found in Solomon's prayer when he dedicated the temple to the service of God. I find that prayer to be intensely evangelical. How can we show that the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple was intensely evangelical? By the frequent use of one of the greatest words in evangelical terminology. 'When Thou hearest, Lord, forgive.' That is the evangelical faith; that is the evangelical conception of the universe: that God can go back upon human history, and cleanse it; God can go into the human heart, and rid it of every stain and taint of guilt.

III. It was also a most experimental prayer: 'If they sin against Thee (for there is no man that sinneth not)'. That is human history; that is the right conception of human nature. And 'sinneth' is the right word to apply to the history of human life. We cannot conceal ourselves within the shadow of some perfect respectability. It must come to penitence, to brokenheartedness, to making a clean breast of it in the sanctuary when we are alone with God. After that will come forgiveness, restoration, adoption, steps on the road to sanctification.

IV. And what a pathetic prayer it is! At one point the great pleader says, Forgive the people, have pity upon them, save them, 'for they be Thy people' (v. 51). That is the fundamental fact. They are bad. Yes, but they are still Thine. They have gone astray. Truly, but they still bear Thine image and likeness, in Thine image didst Thou create them; Thou wilt not forsake the work of Thine own hands. Thus human nature is read in its deepest mystery, and thus the Divine clemency is interpreted in its most essential pathos.

V. You like a practical prayer? You will find the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple one of the most practical prayers in all history. For he says, 'When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain' he is going now to pray for the fields, the crops; he is now going to anticipate hunger, and anticipate God in its prevention 'If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar, plague, and sickness'. If you wanted a practical prayer it is here; your story is told by this man in words that are tears; he knows and interprets you to God. There is a theology of providence; there is a theology of domestic life; there is a theology of national circumstances.

VI. Ah! but it was all Israel, Israel, Israel; it was a Jew's prayer; it was patriotic, but not philanthropic. You have not read the prayer. Hear verse 41. 'Moreover concerning the stranger, that is not of Thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for Thy name's sake; (for they shall hear of Thy great name, and of Thy strong hand, and of Thy stretched out arm;) when the stranger shall come and pray toward this house; hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to Thee for'. How the Bible widens; how it takes in nation after nation; how sometimes quite suddenly it claims the whole earth, and promises to One fairer than the fairest of men the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost part of the earth for His possession. It was, therefore, not a patriotic prayer only, but a philanthropic prayer. It is right to pray for our own family if we make that a starting-point of a still larger prayer; it is right to pray for our own monarch or our own republican president if we make that the starting-point of a grand cosmopolitan prayer, in which we bathe the whole earth, asking for the total globe the forgiveness and the pity and the sovereignty of God.

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VII. p. 146.

Unrealized Purposes

1 Kings 8:18-19

Here is an incident which supplies abundant material for reflection; a man with a dear and cherished ambition, believing it to come from God. He has brooded over it long. On many a night as he lay awake, he has woven his plans and painted his picture of what he meant to do. He sends for his confidant in all such matters, and imparts to him the plan which has formed in his mind. Instantly Nathan blesses it, 'Go and do all that is in thine heart'. He has reckoned up his resources, and means to pour them all out at the feet of God for this end. Suddenly there comes a message through the very man who has approved his plan a message from God. And this is the burden of it; your plan is good, but you are not the man to carry it out. It was well to think of it and plan for it. It is right, and it will come to pass. 'Nevertheless, thou shalt not build the house.' So the fond plans were shattered, and lay in a heap at David's feet by God's denial and forbidding. And it must for he was intensely human have caused him a momentary pang of disappointment and dismay.

We ought to be able to learn some lessons from such an incident. It is recorded for our instruction.

I. Think first of the purpose which was denied. It was pure and beautiful, and it was evidently in accord with the will of God. That makes its denial perplexing. We can understand the defeat of a desire that is unworthy, of an ambition that has mixed with it the desire for self glorification. To be rich or famous, to set men talking of your exploits, is an ambition which you can understand the breath of God blowing on and withering for the health of a man's soul. But this was there ever anything more beautiful? Here is what the historian tells us about it: 'It came to pass when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies'.

As soon as he came to a clear space in life, and after all the tumult and conflict, he had time to think; he said to Nathan: 'See, now I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God remaineth within curtains'. And he had ever the conviction that if a man served God at all, it must not be with the margins and dregs left over when everything else had been lavishly provided for. He simply refused to serve God with that which cost him nothing. And it was out of this pure and pious sentiment that this ambition and desire grew. He had earned the right to repose and ease, to enjoy the fruit of his labour, and we could well have understood it if he had said, 'Let my son build the temple; I have struggled hard in my time, let me rest'. But it was not in him to say it. He wanted to crown a life's work by devoting the whole of his days of leisure and his gathered gold to the building of a house for the Lord. That became the dear desire of his heart, and it was that desire that was vetoed. So then I draw the inference from the incident that some of the purest and highest and best purposes of our lives may be unrealized. I do not mean that they may be thwarted by human opposition or demoniacal obstruction, or by your own hindering weakness, but they may be defeated by the will of God.

II. I draw another inference from this denial, viz. that every man has his limitations even in spiritual service. The reason given to David for this denial of his dear purpose was, 'Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and made great wars'. This was not work that David had sought, or that he loved. It had been thrust upon him for the defence and rescue of Israel, but apparently it was the work for which God had designed him, and the other which he had the means and which he had thought he had the ability to do was not for him. One of the lessons to be gathered from this is that spiritual work is a matter of such high importance, that God has regard to the fitness of men to perform it.

III. Thirdly, observe David's behaviour under this disappointment. I am not aware that David ever acts more nobly than when this dear wish is denied.

1. There is no murmuring, no soreness, there is no surprise expressed, but a ready and adoring acquiescence in the will of God.

2. He does all he can to provide for another to carry the work through. That is the crowning grace of the incident. I attach more importance to that than to the fact that after this forbidding David went in and sat before the Lord and worshipped. The temple would never be called by his name, he would never see it, but he went on accumulating materials for it as generously and lavishly as if he had known that he would stand in the centre of its splendour on the day of its opening, and be recognized as the originator of the whole glorious plan.

The last lesson of all is that it is a good thing to have high desires and aims, though they should never be realized. 'Thou didst well that it was in thine heart.'

Charles Brown, God and Man, p. 5.

King Solomon The Temple-builder

1 Kings 8:27

I. The actual history of the building of the temple is rooted in the life of King David. David after an act of sinful presumption, which was terribly and speedily punished, wished as a thankoffering, for the removal of the pestilence which followed on his numbering of the people, to build this house on the site of the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. But it was speedily revealed to him that, though he. might design and prepare, this honour was not reserved for him. God revealed to him, 'Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto My name.... Behold a son shall be born unto thee who shall be a man of rest; he shall build an house for My name.' And at last Solomon entered on the achievement of his great purpose, and the temple was built as the House of God, and God in the emphatic words of the Bible came to dwell there. In the long-drawn out description of Solomon's temple, in which God willed to interest Himself, and to inspire the designers, the builders, and the offerers, we recognize a great principle: That God, who is pure beauty, wills to be worshipped with all that is reverend, costly, and beautiful, in that humanity which he has so richly endowed.

II. We should miserably fall short of what God designed to teach us, if we saw in Solomon's temple only a consecration of religious sentiment and an apotheosis of the beautiful. God has said again and again that He wishes to dwell with man, to have a House in the midst of us, and definite modes of approach, and we can see how potent this feeling is where men have accepted and welcomed it. Not only here have we a presence of God nearer and more intimate than that which was vouchsafed to any few, but we may feel that these churches of ours are not large empty tombs, architectural monuments, or meeting-places for instruction, but that they are the dwelling-place of God.

III. But if the House of God appeals to us by an influence mysterious yet real, where the mind sweeps across from the very heights of the higher heaven, it is to us, or at least it may be, even more than this it may be a sanctuary. The Church is still the place where the pursued may flee before the talons of an overmastering temptation and find rest for the soul. We cannot scold people into being good, we cannot persuade them into seriousness, but we may elevate and attract them by God's exceeding beauty, and His tender gentleness. It is not only the sick body that needs to be taken out of its deadly environment: it is the sick soul which, when perishing from the dead monotony of unrelieved evil, passes in here into the presence of beauty, health, and goodness, and is saved by the sweetness and peace which breathe forth their fragrance from the sanctuary of God.

IV. But Solomon's temple meant more than this to a few: our own churches mean much more to a Christian. They are charged with definite grace. Here is the complete and unflinching declaration that a progress without God is a progress downwards, that nature, left to itself only leads us away, and that 'ye must be born again' is no ecclesiastical misreading of a symbolical saying, but a solemn fact and the foundation of all spiritual life.

W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 1.

References. VIII. 27. P. McAdam Muir, Modern Substitutes for Christianity, p. 65. VIII. 38. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Master's Message, p. 45. VIII. 38, 39. J. Keble, Miscellaneous Sermons, p. 245. VIII. 44, 45. E. J. Boyce, Parochial Sermons, p. 293. VIII. 57-60. C. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p. 79. X. 1. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 112. X. 2. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, p. 173. X. 8. J. M. Neale, Sermons for Some Feast Days, p. 362. X. 12. G. W. M'Cree, Christian World Pulpit, 1890, vol. xx. A. Gray, Faith and Diligence, p. 133.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Kings 8". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/1-kings-8.html. 1910.