The Bringing Of The Ark Into The Temple And The Manifestation Of God’s Presence (1 Kings 8:1-11).
The moment for which Solomon had waited had eventually arrived. The Temple itself was now fully completed and stood there in its pristine glory, and all the furniture and embellishments had been made and put in place. Now the next thing that was necessary was to bring into it all that was ‘holy’ (set apart wholly to God, and seen as uniquely His) in Israel, for he wanted his Temple to be acknowledged as ‘the Central Sanctuary’. What was ‘holy’, of course, especially included the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, the most sacred item of them all, for it bore the Name of YHWH and indicated His invisible presence among them (2 Samuel 6:2; Genesis 13:4; Exodus 33:19; Deuteronomy 12:11). But along with it was the sacred Tabernacle and its holy furnishings. These together constituted the original Central Sanctuary.
Such an event required the bringing together of all who counted in Israel, and they came up seven days before the Feast of Tabernacles and with all due ceremony brought the Ark from its Sacred Tent and set it up in the Most Holy Place. It was accompanied by all that was looked on as holy, including the ‘ancient’ Tabernacle, which may have then been stored in the room constructed over the Most Holy Place, although the only other item kept in use was the brazen altar (which explains why it has never been mentioned. And once the Ark was in its place, and the priests had left the Most Holy Place, the glory of YHWH filled His house under cover of the sacred cloud. It was an indication that He did not despise or reject what they had done, for He recognised that what they had done had been done because they were seeking to glorify Him. It is an indication to us that God always graciously acknowledges our genuinely best efforts, even though they might not be quite what He would have hoped for, and in this case He wanted Israel to know that He was still with them and watching over them. It was His way of putting His seal on what they had done.
a Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the fathers’ houses of the children of Israel, to king Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of YHWH out of the city of David, which is Zion (1 Kings 8:1).
b And all the men of Israel assembled themselves to king Solomon at the feast, in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark (1 Kings 8:2-3).
c And they brought up the ark of YHWH, and the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels which were in the Tent, even these did the priests and the Levites bring up (1 Kings 8:4).
d And king Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled to him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, which could not be counted nor numbered for multitude (1 Kings 8:5).
e And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of YHWH to its place, into the inner room of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim, for the cherubim spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered the ark and its staves above. (1 Kings 8:6-7).
d And the staves were so long that the ends of the staves were seen from the holy place before the inner room, but they were not seen outside, and there they are to this day (1 Kings 8:8).
c There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when YHWH made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt (1 Kings 8:9).
b And it came about that, when the priests were come out of the holy place, the cloud filled the house of YHWH (1 Kings 8:10).
a So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud, for the glory of YHWH filled the house of YHWH (1 Kings 8:11).
Note how in ‘a’ all the chief men of Israel gathered to do honour to the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH and bring it up into the new Most Holy Place, and in the parallel YHWH responded by revealing His glory and filling the house with His cloud. In ‘b’ all assembled and the priests took up the Ark, and in the parallel the priests came out of the Holy Place having brought the Ark up. In ‘c’ the Ark of YHWH was brought up, along with all the holy things, and in the parallel we are told what was in the Ark (the Ark clearly therefore having been opened up by the priests, unless this was simply an inspired assumption). In ‘d’ men offered a multitude of offerings which could not be counted, and in the parallel the staves of the Ark were so long that the Most Holy Place could not fully contain them. Centrally in ‘e’ the Ark took up its place under the protection of the Cherubim.
1 Kings 8:1
‘Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the fathers of the children of Israel, to king Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of YHWH out of the city of David, which is Zion.’
There is a distinct echo here of 2 Samuel 6, but that is partly because this is precisely what would happen on such an occasion. Firstly all the notable men of Israel/Judah would be assembled together, probably at a sacred feast (the seventh month was the month of the feast of Tabernacles). Then the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, which had rested in its place in the Sacred Tent in the citadel of David, (which was on the southern part of hill of Jerusalem and was at that time exclusively named Zion), was now brought out from there with due solemnity up to the Temple mount on the northern plateau (which would from now on be included in the term Zion) in order to be set up in the Most Holy Place in the new Temple. (Later still ‘Zion’ would refer to the whole of Jerusalem, and then to the people even when far away from Jerusalem in Babylon - e.g. Zechariah 2:7).
It was a most important moment in the history of Israel. The Temple on its mount was being made into the unique earthly dwelling-place of YHWH, replacing and incorporating both the Ancient Tabernacle and the Sacred Tent. It was becoming the Central Sanctuary around which all Israel should unite within the covenant. (We are not, however, to think of it as the only place where sacrifices could be officially offered, for that could still occur at places ‘where YHWH had recorded His Name’. Thus Elijah could refer to genuinely acceptable ‘altars of YHWH’ (1 Kings 19:10, see also 1 Kings 18:30). And the Temple itself was built on a site where YHWH had recorded His Name (2 Chronicles 3:1).
Note the different levels of authority in Israel. ‘The elders of Israel’, ‘the heads of the tribes’, the princes of the fathers’. All these still had responsibility in the ruling of the kingdom, which was a kind of semi-democracy It was very necessary for Solomon to keep them alongside, and ensure their support (and was where he later failed).
For ‘the princes of the fathers’ compare Numbers 1:16; Numbers 3:30; Numbers 3:35; Numbers 7:2; Joshua 22:14. For ‘the heads of the tribes’ see Numbers 30:1. For ‘the elders of Israel’ see Exodus 3:16; Exodus 3:18; Exodus 12:21; Exodus 17:5-6; Exodus 18:12; Exodus 24:1; Exodus 24:9; Leviticus 9:1; Numbers 11:16; Numbers 11:30; Numbers 16:25; Deuteronomy 27:1; Deuteronomy 31:9. They all had solid Mosaic (but mainly not Deuteronomic) backgrounds.
1 Kings 8:2
‘And all the men of Israel assembled themselves to king Solomon at the feast, in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.’
As required by the Law of Moses all the men of Israel gathered at the Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh month (Leviticus 23:34-35; Numbers 28:12-31; Deuteronomy 16:13-15). Note in this case that portrayal of the feast in Deuteronomy actually requires the detailed information given in Numbers 28:12-31 in order to make sense. But this time their coming together was also at the special summons of the king, for they gathered seven days before the feast. They assembled ‘to king Solomon’. All the concentration was on him. And the feast would then last for fourteen days (1 Kings 8:65), the initial seven days of dedication being followed by the actual Feast of Tabernacles, thus making it twice the usual length.
“Ethanim” (regularly flowing) was the ancient name for the seventh moon period (compare 1 Kings 6:1; 1 Kings 6:38 for similar ancient names). Later it would be called Tishri (although we cannot be too dogmatic. Tishri was already in use at Ugarit). There is no indication of the relationship of this particular feast to surrounding events, for while we know that the actual building of the Temple was completed on the eighth moon period of the year in which it occurred (1 Kings 6:38), and that this ‘seventh month’ must therefore be at least eleven months later, we do not know how long it took to make all the embellishments and furniture described in chapter 7. Thus this may have been in the following year. On the other hand 1 Kings 9:2 might suggest that it only took place once the king’s house had also been completed, for the king’s palace complex and the Temple were seen as closely linked, emphasising the fact that the king was the intercessor supreme for Israel. He thus had direct access as God’s viceroy. This connection only ceased in the time of Ahab at the demand of the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:18) and is assumed in the heavenly Temple in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 44:3). As a result the Temple might not have been seen as finally ‘completed’ until the king’s new palace was occupied.
It is possible that the time around the Feast of Tabernacles was chosen as the time for dedicating the Temple because it was intended to be a reminder that the people of Israel had once dwelt in tents, but now dwelt in permanent houses. It could thus be seen as indicating that the same would now be true of YHWH. He too could now enjoy His own house. Its folly lay in its failure to recognise that YHWH had a far more permanent dwellingplace and therefore required no such Temple.
“All the men of Israel.” That is, all the leaders who had gathered in response to Solomon’s summons, together with those who had come up for the feast of Tabernacles.
1 Kings 8:3-4
‘And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark, and they brought up the ark of YHWH, and the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels which were in the Tent, even these did the priests and the Levites bring up.’
All that was seen as holy in Israel was now brought up into the Temple in the presence of the elders of Israel, It was brought by ‘the priests, with the assistance of the Levites’. As in 2 Samuel 6 the Ark itself was borne by the priests, possibly uncovered, while the Tent of Meeting and the holy vessels and furniture which were in it, were borne by the Levites in accordance with the requirements of the Torah.
This distinction between the priests and the Levites was maintained from earliest times (e.g. Exodus 28; Exodus 30:30; Exodus 29:19-44; Exodus 39:27-29; Exodus 40:12-15; Leviticus 10; Leviticus 21; Numbers 3:1-51; Numbers 4; Numbers 8:5-26; Numbers 18:1-7; Numbers 18:19-24; Numbers 26:57-62) and was made clear by the book of Deuteronomy in Deuteronomy 18:1-8 (see note below). The Tent of Meeting is one name by which the ancient Tabernacle was known (Exodus 27:21; Exodus 28:43; Exodus 29 six times; 30 five times; Exodus 31:7; Exodus 33:7; Exodus 35:21; Exodus 38:8; Exodus 38:30; Exodus 40:12; Leviticus 1-7 fifteen times; 8 five times; 9-15 nine times; 16 six times; 17-24, six times); Numbers over fifty times; Deuteronomy 31:14; Joshua 18:1; Joshua 19:51; 1 Samuel 2:22), and its continued existence is confirmed in 1 Samuel 1-3, see especially 1 Kings 2:22; and 1 Kings 21:1-9. See also 1 Kings 3:4. It was a name taken over from the ancient Tent used prior to arriving at Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:7), signifying that it was the place where God was met with, and where Israel could gather to worship God.
Brief Note On The Use Of LXX.
In spite of LXX (of which there are various conflicting texts) there are no good grounds for omitting phrases in the verse (which are anyway all included in LXX in 2 Chronicles 5:5) simply because of their inconvenience and in order to support out-of-date theories (although we should note that the reference to the Tent of Meeting is in LXX in Kings). One commentator (a man of great erudition) excels himself, going through the verse excising one clause because it was not in LXX, another in spite of the fact that it was, and putting in a third which was not in LXX and excluding one that was. At least he could not be accused of bias towards LXX! But if you can treat LXX like that why suggest that it can support your idea of what the text should be? It has proved unreliable. (LXX is not in fact too reliable in Kings and appears to have a tendency to alter the text). And why did he do it? Not because of any essential intrinsic demand, but because like all of us it suited his theories about what should be in and what should not.
On the other hand, to be fair, the fragments of the 6QK papyrus from Qumran do also reveal a slightly shorter text for 1 Kings 8:1-6, although not in line with LXX and of course we do not know the source for the papyrus. The whole question of who changed what is, however, very complicated and we must always bear in mind that in MT we probably have on the whole the official text as reliably preserved in the Temple.
Brief Note On Deuteronomy 18:1.
“The priests the Levites, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion nor inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the offerings of YHWH made by fire and His inheritance. And they shall have no inheritance among their brethren. YHWH is their inheritance, as He has spoken to them” (Deuteronomy 18:1-2).
The opening phrase ‘The priests the Levites, all the tribe of Levi’ raises questions as to whether this covers both levitical priests (the priests the Levites) and Levites (all the tribe of Levi) or just the levitical priests alone. This is determined by the fact that in Deuteronomy such phrases in apposition regularly represent the item in apposition as signifying something greater than the first phrase. See Deuteronomy 3:4-5; Deuteronomy 15:21; Deuteronomy 16:21;Deuteronomy 17:1; Deuteronomy 23:19; Deuteronomy 25:16. This confirms that as ‘the priests the Levites’ are in apposition to ‘all the tribe of Levi’, the latter is made up of more people than the former. Compare also 1 Kings 3:18 where, however, there is a reduction in the idea. Thus in Deuteronomy words in apposition are never just a description of the same idea. In Deuteronomy 2:37; Deuteronomy 3:13; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 5:8; Deuteronomy 20:14; Deuteronomy 29:10 the clauses in apposition are always of one against a number and therefore not strictly comparable. This would confirm that ‘all the tribe of Levi’ is an extension of, and addition to, the idea of the levitical priests, and thus refers to both priests and Levites and not just levitical priests alone. Significantly there are no examples of the use of the construction where both parts refer to the same thing. Equally significantly in 1 Kings 8:3-8 the priests and the Levites are clearly distinguished.
End of note.
1 Kings 8:5
‘And king Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled to him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, which could not be counted nor numbered for multitude.’
These sacrifices, made in the presence of the Ark (and thus where YHWH had recorded His Name), were felt to be necessary because of the precarious situation brought about by moving the Ark. They did not want a repetition of the incident of Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:7). This would again appear to parallel 2 Samuel 6:13 where the same thing is said to have occurred. As so often when the text says ‘he sacrificed’ the idea is probably that he brought the offering for a priest to sacrifice (all the priests would be there). In other words Solomon and his people brought a constant stream of animals to the priests who were not bearing the Ark, in order that they might be offered up so as to ensure the safe passage of the Ark.
“Sacrificing sheep and oxen, which could not be counted nor numbered for multitude.” This is not just an expression indicating a great number. It also bears witness to the fact that counting and numbering was not something found easy by Israelites (outside the trained accountants). They found in this case that, in view of the difficulties, keeping count was too much for them simply because of the quantity.
1 Kings 8:6-7
‘And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of YHWH to its place, into the inner room of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered (formed a screen over) the ark and its staves above.’
The priests brought the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH (its official name of which others are abbreviations. See 1 Kings 3:15; Numbers 10:33; Numbers 14:44; Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 31 three times; Joshua 1-8 seven times; 1 Samuel 4:3-5 three times) into the Inner house, into the Most Holy Place. And there they set it down under the wings of the massive Cherubim which Solomon had had made. They were there as guardian Cherubim, and as a reminder that YHWH’s Name could not be approached or touched. And the wings of the Cherubim were spread out so that they reached out over and covered the Ark and the staves.
“Covered, formed a screen” need not be taken absolutely literally. The point is that the Ark and its staves were under their watch and protection, It is indicating that the heavenly beings whom they represented were keeping their watch over all that was in the Most Holy Place, and that the Ark was remaining in its place. For when in Ezekiel the time came for YHWH to finally visibly depart, it was He Who stood over the Cherubim (Ezekiel 11:18). Thus here YHWH was seen as at rest among His people, with His attendants watching out for Him.
1 Kings 8:8
‘And the staves were so long that the ends of the staves were seen from the holy place before the inner room, but they were not seen outside, and there they are to this day.’
God’s instructions had been that the staves should not be taken out of the rings on the Ark, but should be left in place (Exodus 25:15). And they were so long that they protruded slightly into the Holy Place. We are not told how provision was made for this. Presumably the doors were left partly open, with the Veil preventing anyone seeing or having access into the Most Holy Place. The staves then presumably protruded making the Veil bulge. Thus the Most Holy Place was, as it were brought into the Holy Place, with the result that the altar of incense, situated in front of the Veil could be seen as directly connected with the Most Holy Place, for when spoken of it is regularly seen as connected with the Most Holy Place. See e.g. 1 Kings 6:20; Hebrews 9:4.
“And there they are to this day.” These words could not have been the words of the final compiler of Kings, for in his day the Temple had been destroyed and the staves were not still there. They must clearly therefore come from his source, written when the Temple was still standing. The period required prior to this being able to be said could have been anywhere from, say, six months onwards. They is no real indication in the words of the length of the passage of time (everyone come to his own opinion about it depending on his theories). All that they do tell us is that the protrusion of the staves into the Holy Place was an evidenced reality.
Some see them as the words of the author of almost the whole of Kings in the early days of Jehoiakim (while the Temple was still standing), with the ending having been added by a subsequent prophet during the Exile (because of its content).
1 Kings 8:9
‘There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when YHWH made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.’
The only articles that were in the Ark were the two tables of stone put there by Moses at Horeb (Sinai) when YHWH made His covenant with His people when they came out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 25:16; Exodus 40:20). The reason for mentioning this was in order to remind His people of the original covenant made with them at Sinai which was still binding on them, and was the one thing in the Ark. It was not simply an historical aside or a list of contents In other words it is emphasising that that covenant was central to all their worship, and to all that the Ark stood for. Nothing had been, or was to be, added. (In view of its reputation it must indeed be considered doubtful whether anyone would actually check what was in the Ark. The statement may well simply have been made as a known fact).
If anything else ever had been in the Ark, and that is doubtful, it would probably have disappeared when the Philistines captured the Ark and bore it in triumph though the Philistine crowds, or when they placed it in their temples as a trophy. But Aaron’s rod that budded and the vessel containing the manna were probably never placed in the Ark (the rod would be too long) but were placed before or alongside the Ark (Exodus 16:33-34; Numbers 17:10). In Hebrews 9:4 ‘in/by which’ need only indicate connection in some way.
1 Kings 8:10
‘And it came about that, when the priests were come out of the holy place, the cloud filled the house of YHWH.’
The Ark having been set down in the Most Holy Place, the priests retired, never to enter it again (apart from the High Priest once a year after suitable preparation). And it was then that the most remarkable thing happened. No doubt to their wondering astonishment ‘the cloud’ (the one known about from Exodus 40:34) filled the house of YHWH. It was a sign that YHWH was putting His seal on the Temple as the new Central Sanctuary and Dwellingplace of YHWH.
1 Kings 8:11
‘So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud, for the glory of YHWH filled the house of YHWH.’
And the result was that the priests could not enter the Holy Place in order to perform their functions, for the presence of the cloud was veiling the presence of the glory of YHWH which filled the whole house. There is little doubt that there is a definite reference intended here back to Exodus 40:34-35. We are never told at what stage the cloud departed. If it was as permanent as the earlier cloud in Exodus it may simply have retired into the Most Holy Place where necessarily no one would ever see it, but the probability is that it was intended only to be a short term seal on the Temple and therefore at some stage departed from the house.
Solomon Speaks To The People And Explains The Basis For And Significance Of The Building Of The Temple (1 Kings 8:12-21).
The speech that follows is an interesting one. To quite some extent Solomon’s words here read like a defence of what he was doing, and an attempt to prove that it was in line with YHWH’s will, and with the covenant that YHWH had made with His people when He delivered them out of Egypt. They reveal his own awareness of the fact that the people were not as a whole comfortable with the transfer of the Tabernacle from its acknowledged position in ‘the great high place’ in Gibeon, a recognised Israelite city, sanctified by its past as one of the first cities to become YHWH’s during the conquest, when it meant that it would be moved to a city which up until the time of David had been openly Canaanite (even granted that the Temple would not actually be built within the Canaanite citadel). Thus instead of positively extolling the benefits of the Temple, he busied himself with presenting his arguments as to why they should accept it as YHWH’s will, on the basis of His covenant with David. Many have suggested that he had also written the Song of Solomon, (with its message of a bride who longs for the purity of the Israel’s countryside, but who finally goes up to the mountain of spices) and made it popular among the people at their feasts, with the same end in view.
It is noteworthy from this point of view that he failed to mention Jerusalem or Zion in his speech even once, and while there was a mild hint of it in the negative reference in 1 Kings 8:16, nowhere did he suggest that Jerusalem was the city chosen by YHWH for the purpose. It was almost as though he did not want to draw their attention to the fact that he had built the Temple in Jerusalem. Rather he stressed that YHWH had chosen David, and that the building of the Temple arose from that fact, and that YHWH had confirmed His agreement with David’s plan on that basis, and because the purpose of his heart was right. Thus he wanted the Temple to be seen as permitted by YHWH to David, the one whom He had chosen, and then as built by his son in accordance with YHWH’s wishes. (This is a good indication of the fact that these were the genuine words of Solomon, recorded at the time. No one would ever have put these words on his lips later. They would have gloried more in the Temple).
That is not to deny the important truth of what he said, an importance that lies not in what it says about the Temple, which was simply part of his ‘defence’ for transferring the Central Sanctuary to the Temple and was merely his interpretation of the covenant ( 1 Kings 8:17-20), but in its vital testimony to the importance of YHWH’s covenant with David (1 Kings 8:14-16).
a ‘Then spoke Solomon, “YHWH has said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built you a house of habitation, a place for you to dwell in for ever” (1 Kings 8:12-13).
b And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the assembly of Israel, and all the assembly of Israel stood, and he said, “Blessed be YHWH, the God of Israel, who spoke with his mouth to David your father, and has with his hand fulfilled it, saying” (1 Kings 8:14-15).
c “ ‘Since the day that I brought forth my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build a house, that my name might be there, but I chose David to be over my people Israel’ ” (1 Kings 8:16).
d “Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of YHWH, the God of Israel” (1 Kings 8:17).
c “But YHWH said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart, nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who will come forth out of your loins, he will build the house for my name’ (1 Kings 8:18-19).
b “And YHWH has established his word that he spoke, for I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as YHWH promised, and have built the house for the name of YHWH, the God of Israel” (1 Kings 8:20).
a “And there have I set a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of YHWH, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 8:21).
Note that in ‘a’ Solomon refers to the house that he has built for YHWH to dwell in, and in the parallel declares that he has set the Ark there for that purpose. In ‘b’ he speaks of YHWH having made a covenant with his father and as having fulfilled it, and in the parallel declares that YHWH had established His word as He had promised. In ‘c’ YHWH stresses that since the day that they had left Egypt He had chosen no city in which to build a house, but rather had chosen David to be over His people, and in the parallel he explains that YHWH has given David permission for the house now to be built, by his son. Centrally in ‘d’ this is stated to be because it was something dear to David’s heart. YHWH had wanted to please David Whom He had chosen.
1 Kings 8:12-13
‘Then spoke Solomon,
“YHWH has said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.
I have surely built you a house of habitation (magnificent house),
A place for you to dwell in for ever.”
The words ‘“YHWH has said that he would dwell in the thick darkness’ are a preliminary statement prior to his two line dedication. We know of no actual previous example of YHWH as saying this, but Solomon may well have been referring to Exodus 20:21; Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:2; 2 Samuel 22:10; Psalms 18:9; compare Psalms 97:2, seeing them as indicating what God had spoken through Moses and David, and interpreting them as YHWH’s word on the basic grounds that what the Scripture had said, YHWH had said. The basic idea behind the picture of thick darkness is of the mysteriousness and hidden nature of God, of God as a God Who cannot reveal Himself fully to any man, because no man could bear it (see Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16; and compare Genesis 32:30, although there God had equally been concealed in a human body; Judges 6:22-23, where He had been revealed through His ‘Angel’; Judges 13:22, where the same applied). It is a reminder that except as far as He reveals Himself He is the Great Unknown.
The words that follow were then Solomon’s preliminary dedication to YHWH, before addressing the people:
I have surely built you a house of habitation,
A place for you to dwell in for ever.”
His idea was presumably that although YHWH dwells in thick darkness, and cannot therefore be seen in the fullness of what He is (something already expressed by the cloud which had covered YHWH’s glory in 1 Kings 8:10-11), yet nevertheless by building the Temple with its Most Holy Place which was inaccessible to man and in total darkness, he had made it possible for YHWH to live among His people. It was ‘a house for His habitation’ (i.e. a house fit for His habitation, a magnificent house. Compare the Assyrian bit zabal) and it was his intention as a result that YHWH would there be among His people into the distant future. Linking his Temple with the everlasting covenant of 2 Samuel 7:13; 2 Samuel 7:16; he saw it as equally ‘everlasting’, (which the final compiler knew to be folly, for by his day it had been destroyed). It was his pious hope that it would mean that God would be for ever with His people. (Fortunately the presence of God with His people was not dependent on there being a Temple. After all He could provide His own temple whenever He wanted. (Compare the description in Ezekiel 40 a temple which demonstrated His presence but was never intended to be built. It was ‘accessed’ through the altar set up in Jerusalem, which was built).
There was undoubtedly a bit of self-glamourisation about this statement (note the ‘I have surely built you’), for the Temple was not really necessary for this purpose. The Ark itself was sufficient evidence that YHWH was among His people because it was ‘called by His Name (2 Samuel 6:2), and its unique holiness had been demonstrated by the death of Uzzah, while both the Tabernacle and the Sacred Tent had also had their own inaccessible Most Holy Places, with the cloud of YHWH certainly having fallen on the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34). It thus gives the appearance of being unwarranted self-congratulation, and almost condescension, as though YHWH was dependent on Solomon for something that He had never had before. The only thing that partly saved it from being this was the later dedication in which he admitted that his Temple could not really contain YHWH in all His fullness because YHWH is too great (1 Kings 8:27). It does, however, give an indication of the attitude that would bring about Solomon’s downfall. He was rather pleased with himself, and felt that God owed him something. After all, it had cost him a lot of his wealth. It was because he was so self-satisfied that he became prey to the temptations that followed.
We, who are aware of the folly of his words from knowing what happened afterwards, and from knowing that God’s everlasting dwellingplace is in the new Heaven and the new earth, need to be equally aware when we make our gifts to God that we do not see them as putting Him in our debt. For we must remember that all that we have is His, and we do but give Him what is already His own (1 Chronicles 29:14), and that the Scripture warns us that the haughty spirit comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
1 Kings 8:14
‘And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the assembly of Israel, and all the assembly of Israel stood.’
Having briefly dedicated the Temple to YHWH the king now turned to the people, many of whom were not equally convinced that this Temple was such a good thing. And from his position as priestly intercessor of his people he blessed ‘all the assembly of Israel’ while they stood on their feet before him. As we have suggested above, the words of the blessing sound very much like a defence of what he was doing. He was after all bringing about a major transformation of the religion of Israel. From the people’s viewpoint the ancient and revered Tabernacle in its ancient high place was being replaced by this brand new, and undoubtedly gorgeous Temple, which had, however, been built on a high place connected with what had within living memory been a pagan city, and had further pagan associations in view of its Tyrian and Sidonian input. It was foreign to their thinking, and many, especially among the more conservative countryfolk, would not have been very happy about the situation at all. It went against all their treasured traditions, and involved the ‘disappearance’ of the sacred Tabernacle, which they by now probably thought of as the original. (Even David had not dared to try to establish the Tabernacle as the Central Sanctuary in Jerusalem, and when he had transferred it from Hebron, possibly in reprisal for their support of Absalom, he had transferred it to Gibeon). So Solomon was seeking to win them round to acceptance of the Temple. And he sought to do it by fixing their attention on God’s choice of David, who had made them so prosperous and secure, and asking them to see it in that light. What this did do, however, was help to establish the importance of the Davidic covenant.
1 Kings 8:15
‘And he said, “Blessed be YHWH, the God of Israel, who spoke with his mouth to David your father, and has with his hand fulfilled it, saying,”
He praised ‘YHWH, the God of Israel’ and stressed that it was He Who had spoken directly to David their ‘father’ (‘your father’ being intended to make them feel a part of it) and had now by His own hand fulfilled it. Thus he wanted them to see it as all of God.
“ ‘Since the day that I brought forth my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build a house, that my name might be there, but I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ ”
Then he stressed the words of YHWH, words which are, however, as he cites them, nowhere previously recorded. They are therefore possibly a very free interpretation of 2 Samuel 7:6-7. But we should note that even there the emphasis was on ‘NOT dwelling in a house, but on living in a tent’, and certainly NOT on ‘choosing out a city’. And Solomon basically acknowledged this when he stressed that YHWH’s choice initially was not of a city but of a person.
We can gather from Chronicles, if Solomon’s words are to be taken literally as they stand and not as a paraphrase, that David had possibly received a later revelation from YHWH once his own insistence had persuaded YHWH to let a Temple be built. Yet even if that is so the continual emphasis was on YHWH’s choosing of David to be over His people Israel, and not on the building of a Temple. The Temple comes through as very much David’s idea. YHWH was concerned with establishing the house of David, and the promises relating to it of the everlasting kingdom.
The Chronicler adds the words, in the mouth of Solomon, ‘and I have chosen Jerusalem that my name might be there.’ But this would appear to be Solomon’s rather hopeful interpretation of what was said to David, when Solomon was seeking to establish his own view on the matter with the people. The writer of Kings gives no indication anywhere that YHWH spoke of choosing Jerusalem. (We must remember that while Solomon’s words are an inspired record of what he said, that inspiration does not guarantee that what he said was true, especially when he was citing someone else. His words can only be seen as ‘inspired’ when he was speaking in a genuinely prophetic role, e.g. possibly in his prayer).
“Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of YHWH, the God of Israel.”
Solomon acknowledged that the idea of building a physical Temple was very much that of David (see 2 Samuel 7:2; and compare 1 Chronicles 21). He was using the love that they had had for David for all he was worth. But even then it was as something that was in David’s heart, not as something that came from YHWH’s heart.
1 Kings 8:18-19
“But YHWH said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart, nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who will come forth out of your loins, he will build the house for my name.’ ”
But then he stressed that YHWH had given His approval to David’s continuing demand, because He saw that it was made from a genuine heart and a right motive. This approval appears to have been given late in David’s life (1 Chronicles 21), after the incident of the numbering of Israel. But it is clear that the initiative came from David and received YHWH’s approval rather than it being proposed by YHWH. In fact a careful examination of all the narratives involved reveals that David had taken YHWH’s words in 2 Samuel 7:13 and had misinterpreted them precisely because the idea of a literal Temple like all the nations round about had become so firmly fixed in his own mind, and that he had then finally received YHWH’s approval (it was a very similar situation to that when YHWH had granted His permission for the kingship in 1 Samuel 8). There is nowhere a suggestion that YHWH had positively requested on His own initiative that a house be built to His Name.
However, once He had given His permission YHWH did insist that the house be built by one who was a man of peace. He did not want His house to be seen as a celebration of blood shed in war, and as a memorial of bloody victories. He wanted it to be seen rather as a symbol of peace and security. Thus He had insisted that the building of the house be left to David’s son, born from his loins. If such a house was to be built it was David’s son, brought up in peace, who should build a house for His Name.
To build a house for His Name meant to build a house where His presence could be revealed (Genesis 13:4; Exodus 23:21; Exodus 34:5) and where the Ark, which bore His Name (2 Samuel 6:2), could find a home. The idea of ‘the Name of YHWH’ comes as early as Genesis 13:4 where we read that, ‘Abram called on the Name of YHWH’ (and even earlier in Genesis 4:26). In Exodus 23:21 YHWH could say of the Angel of YHWH, ‘My Name is in Him’. Thus in both cases ‘the Name’ represented YHWH’s own presence. Again in Exodus 33:19 YHWH ‘pronounced the Name of YHWH’ before Moses as an indication of His revealed presence, compare Exodus 34:5. We can see therefore why the Ark of God which symbolised His presence was ‘called by the Name of YHWH’ (2 Samuel 6:2), and why building the ‘Dwellingplace of YHWH’ was considered as being in order to house His Name. It was on this basis that Moses saw it as so important that there should always be ‘a place’ (the Hebrew article can never be pressed) where YHWH would cause ‘His Name’ to dwell there (Deuteronomy 12:5). Like 2 Samuel 6:2, Deuteronomy 12 looks back to the above references.
“And YHWH has established his word that he spoke, for I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as YHWH promised, and have built the house for the name of YHWH, the God of Israel.”
Then Solomon sought to convince them that the Temple was therefore based on YHWH establishing His word, on the grounds that Solomon himself had now risen up in David’s place and had sat on the throne of Israel as YHWH had promised, and had therefore built the house for the Name of YHWH the God of Israel, as a reminder of His presence and as a home for the Ark which was called by His Name (2 Samuel 6:2).
“And there have I set a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of YHWH, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”
He then sought to link the Temple with the deliverance from Egypt and the covenant made at Sinai. For he pointed out that the Ark which he had set in the Temple was the very Ark in which was the covenant of YHWH, the covenant that YHWH had made with His people when He had delivered them out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 20). Thus the Temple was now linked closely with the covenant, and had been built as a result of YHWH’s words to David.
He no doubt hoped that that was the end of the matter. But as the future would reveal, many of the people were far from convinced. The Central Sanctuary in Jerusalem would not later have taken such a hold on Israel that it would prevent the split into two kingdoms. (It might have been somewhat different if it had still been established at Gibeon). Nor did it grip the hearts of all in Judah, even though the splitting of the two kingdoms would certainly have helped to focus the attention of many in Judah more on Jerusalem simply as a reaction to Israel’s desertion.
(It should be noted that there is nowhere any suggestion here that this was a fulfilment of Deuteronomy 12, nor on the fact that Jerusalem was the place that YHWH had chosen. All the emphasis is on the fact that it was David who was chosen, and that that was the reason why the Temple was being built in his own city).
Solomon’s Prayer Of Dedication Of The Temple (1 Kings 8:22-62).
Having, as he hoped, reconciled the people to having the Temple in Jerusalem as their Central Sanctuary, Solomon now reminded God of His covenant, and of His covenant love, admitted that the Temple that he had built could not really contain the God of Heaven and earth, the One Whom even the Heaven of heavens could not contain, and prayed that God would bless them as a result of their having their Temple. He asked Him to listen to their prayers when they prayed towards it, and as a result offer them forgiveness for their sins when they sinned and then repented, and went on to list seven possibilities of the way in which He could show His mercy when they had sinned and then sought His mercy.
Considering the examples that we have of similar sins in Leviticus 27 and Deuteronomy 28-29 what is really remarkable is how any real direct reference to them appears to be avoided. There are very occasional possible echoes of language, but certainly nothing substantial. To describe the prayer as ‘Deuteronomic’ (why not Levitical?) is therefore a total misrepresentation. All that can be said is that it contains occasional parallel ideas to one or the other without borrowing from either, and indeed contains echoes from the whole of the Pentateuch. Furthermore it must be said that even these echoes could easily be seen simply as resulting from traditional ideas conveyed during cultic recitation at the regular feasts.
But there is one further point to be noted and that is the emphasis of the prayer on ‘forgiveness’ (salach). It can hardly be denied that it is a central feature of the prayer and yet it is salutary to recognise that this concept of forgiveness (salach) is prominent in Leviticus and Numbers but almost unknown in what are often called the Deuteronomic writings up to this point.
Thus our conclusion is that we have in Solomon’s prayer a unique and carefully thought out independent prayer of the kind that we would expect from someone like Solomon. During the commentary on the verses we will be giving examples of parallel use of words and ideas found in the Pentateuch, (such as they are), and it will be noted that they are evenly spread over a number of books and of a kind which might have been expected of a young man who had attended the feasts and heard the whole of the Torah being read out, but who did not have it to hand while preparing his speech.
From a literary point of view it will also be noticed that 1 Kings 8:22; 1 Kings 8:54 form a definite and specific inclusio. And what is also interesting is that while he began the prayer standing before the altar with his hands raised towards Heaven, he finished it kneeling on his knees before the altar with his hands spread forth towards Heaven. As we consider the depths which his prayer reached we are not surprised by this. He was clearly so deeply moved by the content of his intercession that as the people’s intercessor he eventually fell to his knees before YHWH. His prayer was no mere formality.
a And Solomon stood before the altar of YHWH in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven (1 Kings 8:22).
b And he said, “O YHWH, the God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keeps covenant and covenant love with your servants, who walk before you with all their heart, who has kept with your servant David my father that which you promised him. Yes, you spoke with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is this day” (1 Kings 8:23-24).
c “Now therefore, O YHWH, the God of Israel, keep with your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, “There shall not fail you a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me” (1 Kings 8:25).
d “Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word, I pray you, be verified, which you spoke to your servant David my father” (1 Kings 8:26).
e “But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built” (1 Kings 8:27).
d “Yet have you respect to the prayer of your servant, and to his supplication, O YHWH my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which your servant prays before you this day” (1 Kings 8:28).
c “That your eyes may be open towards this house night and day, even towards the place of which you have said, “My name shall be there,” to listen to the prayer which your servant shall pray towards this place, and hearken you to the supplication of your servant, and of your people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place. Yes, hear you in heaven your dwelling-place, and when you hear, forgive” (1 Kings 8:29-30).
b Seven examples of breaches of the covenant for which he prays forgiveness if the people truly repent (1 Kings 8:31-53).
a And it was so, that, when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication to YHWH, he arose from before the altar of YHWH, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread forth toward heaven (1 Kings 8:54).
Note that in ‘a’ he is praying before the altar, and in the parallel he ceases praying before the altar. In ‘b’ he stresses the keeping of the covenant and the covenant-keeping nature of God, and in the parallel he considers seven possible breaches of covenant and their possible consequences, and prays that God will hear His people if they truly repent of them. In ‘c’ he calls on YHWH to keep His promises to David, and in the parallel he calls on Him in the same way to listen to the prayers of himself and his people. In ‘d’ he prays that the word of YHWH to David might be verified, and in the parallel he asks YHWH to listen to the prayer that he is praying this day. Centrally in ‘e’ he acknowledges that God will not really dwell on earth, because even the Heaven of heavens cannot contain Him.
1 Kings 8:22
‘And Solomon stood before the altar of YHWH in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven,’
The most solemn moment of the dedication of the Temple had now come (such dedications at the building of temples is testified to elsewhere in the ancient Near East), and as the intercessor of Israel Solomon had well prepared himself. He stood before the altar of YHWH in the presence of all of assembled Israel, and spread forth his hands towards Heaven. But as already mentioned, he would shortly be so moved by some of the things that he was praying about that, by the end of the prayer, he would be on his knees (1 Kings 8:54). For the idea of the spreading forth of the hands compare Exodus 9:33; Psalms 143:6 (a Psalm of David); Isaiah 1:15; and compare Exodus 17:11-12. The Chronicler informs us that he stood on a specially made bronze platform so that all could see him (2 Chronicles 6:13).
The altar of YHWH has not previously been mentioned in connection with the Temple (see 1 Kings 9:25), for the concentration had been on the items made of gold, but it was so necessary a part of ancient worship that it could be assumed. No temple would be complete without one. For the phrase ‘the altar of YHWH’ see Leviticus 17:6; Joshua 9:27; Joshua 22:28-29. In contrast, in Deuteronomy it is always ‘the altar of YHWH your God’ (Deuteronomy 12:27; Deuteronomy 16:21; Deuteronomy 26:4; Deuteronomy 27:6)
1 Kings 8:23-24
‘And he said, “O YHWH, the God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keeps covenant and covenant love with your servants, who walk before you with all their heart, who has kept with your servant David my father that which you promised him. Yes, you spoke with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is this day.”
His prayer was firmly based on the covenant that YHWH had made with his father David, which also intimately affected him, although very much as a part of the continuing covenant of Sinai. He addressed Him as ‘the God of Israel’, that is as the God Who had a personal interest in Israel, and yet he immediately expanded the thought to include the idea that YHWH is supreme and unique in Heaven and earth, a supremacy and uniqueness especially revealed in His keeping of His covenant promises. We can compare Exodus 15:11, ‘Who is like to you O YHWH among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness (set-apartness), fearful in praises, doing wonders?’.
“Who keeps covenant and covenant love with your servants, who walk before you with all their heart” can only refer to the covenant of Sinai, and was directly based on words which YHWH had spoken to David concerning ‘the Torah of Moses’ (1 Kings 2:3-4). This combination of ‘covenant’ and ‘covenant love’ is found in Deuteronomy 5:10; Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 7:12. In keeping His covenant He reveals His covenant love, for otherwise our case would be hopeless. And that covenant love is shown towards those who walk before Him (see Genesis 17:1; 1 Samuel 2:30) ‘with all their hearts’ (1 Kings 2:4).
Note the idea of the people as ‘YHWH’s servants’. He is their king, and they are in subjection to Him, owning Him as their Overlord.
“Who has kept with your servant David my father that which you promised him. Yes, you spoke with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is this day.” Solomon then connects the original covenant up with the matter that is now on their minds, the fulfilment of YHWH’s covenant with David as evidenced in the building of the Temple. As recent history had demonstrated, YHWH had kept His promises to David, and that keeping of His promises has now resulted in the building of the Temple. That was, of course, Solomon’s view. The original covenant had been about ‘the house of David’ not about the Temple (2 Samuel 7:4-17).
For the idea of ‘covenant love’ see Genesis 20:13; Genesis 24:12; Genesis 24:14; Genesis 24:27; Genesis 32:10; Genesis 39:2; Exodus 15:13; Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:6-7; Leviticus 20:17; Numbers 14:18-19. For the combination of covenant and covenant love see Deuteronomy 5:10; Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 7:12. For the phrase ‘Heaven above’ compare Genesis 49:25. For both ‘Heaven above’ and ‘earth beneath’ see Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 4:39; Deuteronomy 5:8, but as it is in part of the ten major requirements of the covenant it would be a commonly used phrase. For walking before God see Genesis 17:1; 1 Samuel 2:30. For ‘walking before God with all their hearts’ see 1 Kings 2:4. For ‘fulfilled with your hand’ see 1 Kings 8:15.
“Now therefore, O YHWH, the God of Israel, keep with your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, “There shall not fail you a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.”
Solomon then reminded YHWH of the promise that he had made to his father David (1 Kings 2:4), “There shall not fail you a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.” And he called on YHWH to keep with David his father what He had promised him concerning the continuance of his house on the throne of Israel. Note the thought that in some way David was still in a position where the promise could be kept with him. It was therefore being suggested that he had some kind of continuance after death (compare Jesus’ argument in Matthew 22:31-32). What Solomon would, of course, sadly overlook was that the promises only applied if David’s sons walked before YHWH as David had. But that was something still in the future and not in his purview. He did not doubt his own heart at this moment. Fortunately the promise in 2 Samuel 7:4-17 was absolute and was not dependent on the obedience of David’s sons (which would produce chastisement but not rejection) but on the dependability of YHWH.
For there shall not fail you a man to sit on your throne’ and ‘take heed to their way’ compare 1 Kings 2:4,
“Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word, I pray you, be verified, which you spoke to your servant David my father.”
Solomon then again prayed that God, as the God of Israel, would let the word that He had spoken be verified. Note the threefold progression in 1 Kings 8:24-26. ‘You have kept -- and have fulfilled it to this day’. ‘Now therefore keep --’. ‘Let your word be verified --.’ He was basing everything on God’s promise to David, and looking not only for the continuation of his own kingship, but, in the final two statements, for the final everlasting kingdom.
“But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built.”
But Solomon was very much aware of the greatness and the glory of God as revealed in the Scriptures, and recognised that such a God could not be limited to earth, even though He might have dealings with man on earth. He was after all the ‘Creator of Heaven and earth’ (Genesis 1:1), ‘the Judge of all the earth’ (Genesis 18:25), the One Who had a stairway between earth and Heaven and ministered on earth through His angels (Genesis 28:12-17), the One Who ‘will be what He will be’ (Exodus 3:14), the deliverer from and devastater of mighty Egypt (Exodus 20:2), the God of Sinai Who could come and go as He would (Exodus 19:16-18; Exodus 24:16-17), God Almighty (Genesis 17:1). How then could such a God be confined to a building on earth?
Indeed he recognised that God was so great that Heaven itself, and even the extremest Heaven, could not contain Him. He could break out in power wherever He would. How then could He be contained in a man built house? Such a concept was only unique, firstly in its concept of the overall greatness of the One God, and secondly in that it had as its background the Scriptures, for no nations of that day in fact believed that they could confine their gods to their temples. The difference lay rather in the fact that they thought that through their temples and their priests they could manipulate their gods, while Solomon was well aware that God could not be manipulated, and instead worked His own will. ‘I will be what I will be’ (Exodus 3:14). He was bound only because of His covenant promises, and even they were largely (although not wholly) dependent on the obedience of His servants. He was the One Who acted as He would, where He would.
“Yet have you respect to the prayer of your servant, and to his supplication, O YHWH my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which your servant prays before you this day,”
Yet although God was so great and so ‘wholly other’ he asked that He would listen to and respond to His servant’s prayer and supplication. Note again the threefoldness of his request. ‘have respect to the prayer of your servant’, ‘and to his supplications’, ‘to listen to the cry and the prayer which your servant prays before you this day’. He was praying from the heart.
“That your eyes may be open towards this house night and day, even towards the place of which you have said, “My name shall be there,” to listen to the prayer which your servant shall pray towards this place.”
And his prayer was that YHWH would now accept this new Temple as he had accepted the Tabernacle so that YHWH’s eyes would be opened towards this house night and day, causing Him to listen to all the prayers that Solomon His servant would, as Israel’s intercessor, pray towards this place.
“The place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there”. He wanted the Temple to be acknowledged as one of the places where He had ‘recorded His Name’ (Exodus 20:24. Throughout their history YHWH had chosen places where He would ‘record His Name.’ It had been so wherever the Tabernacle was established, for it had contained the ARK which ‘whose Name is called by the Name of YHWH of hosts Who sits among the Cherubim’ (2 Samuel 6:2). And that Tabernacle had finally settled in Shiloh (Joshua 18:1) once the country had rest (Joshua 11:23; Joshua 18:1; Joshua 23:1), at ‘the place which YHWH chose to put His Name there’ (Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 12:21; Deuteronomy 14:23-24; Deuteronomy 16:2; Deuteronomy 16:6; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 26:2), and it had been there for centuries.
But as a result of the failure of the people to respond fully to the covenant Shiloh had ceased as the place where ‘YHWH had chosen to put His Name there’, and there had been a stage of fluidity. Now Solomon was praying that He would accept this Temple as such a place. The prophecy ‘My Name shall be there’ (see 1 Kings 8:16) had, according to Solomon, been made to his father David. And the very fact that He had allowed them to build the Temple indicated that that was His purpose for it. The idea of His Name being there was that it would be one place where He was present to listen to the prayers of His people without His being limited to that place.
For the idea of ‘eyes being opened’ see Genesis 3:5; Genesis 3:7; Numbers 24:3-4; Numbers 24:15-16. For ‘my Name shall be there’ compare 1 Kings 8:16. For the idea of ‘the Name’ see Genesis 4:25; Genesis 13:4; Exodus 20:24; Exodus 23:21; Exodus 34:5; Deuteronomy 12:5 etc.).
“And hearken you to the supplication of your servant, and of your people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place. Yes, hear you in heaven your dwelling-place, and when you hear, forgive (salach).”
He then conjoined Israel with himself and prayed that YHWH would not only hear Solomon’s prayers on behalf of the people, but would also hear their own prayers as well. And he knew that it would be needed, for part of YHWH’s covenant with David had included the idea of his sons going astray from YHWH (2 Samuel 7:14). And when that happened they would all need forgiveness, and especially the king himself. This idea of forgiveness is one found in Leviticus and Numbers (but interestingly not in Deuteronomy where the idea is presented in a different way). For this idea of God positively forgiving (salach) see Exodus 34:9; Leviticus 4-5 (eight times); Leviticus 6:7; Leviticus 19:22; Numbers 14:19-20; Numbers 15:25-28; Numbers 30:5; Numbers 30:8; Numbers 30:12, and the Davidic Psalms 25:18; Psalms 103:3. In Deuteronomy it appears only as a negative idea in Deuteronomy 29:20. It is thus not a Deuteronomic concept. And yet forgiveness is to be the very basis of the Temple’s effectiveness at being an instrument for reaching YHWH.
Solomon then listed seven ways in which YHWH’s people, and indeed other people, might call on Him or sin against Him, desiring His response. The first was in the cause of justice when men came before YHWH on oath, the second was when they might be smitten by their enemies because they had sinned against Him, the third was if the heavens were shut up so that there was no rain, for the same reason, the fourth was if natural disasters affected the land, the fifth was where foreigners might come to the Temple for His Name’s sake, the sixth was when His people went out to battle, and the seventh was if ever they found themselves captive in a foreign land, a common enough experience for many people in those turbulent and often violent days.
1 Kings 8:31-32
“If a man sin against his neighbour, and an oath be laid on him to cause him to swear, and he come and swear before your altar in this house, then hear you in heaven, and do, and judge your servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way on his own head, and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.”
The first scenario was where a man was called on to swear an oath before the altar in the Temple as to whether he was guilty or not. In such a case the prayer was that YHWH would respond justly and hear what was sworn, and act accordingly, condemning the guilty and bringing his judgment on his own head, and declaring the righteous to be righteous because he truly was ‘in the right’. See as examples Exodus 22:11; Numbers 5:19; Numbers 5:21. Note that by this prayer the Temple is seen as replacing the regular idea of being brought ‘before YHWH’ in the Tabernacle.
For the idea of swearing an oath before God compare Numbers 30:2; Joshua 2:17; Joshua 2:20. See for this particular case, as already mentioned, Exodus 22:11; Numbers 5:19; Numbers 5:21. Again it is not a Deuteronomic concept.
1 Kings 8:33-34
“When your people Israel are smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against you, if they turn again to you, and confess your name, and pray and make supplication to you in this house, then hear you in heaven, and forgive the sin of your people Israel, and let them remain in the land which you gave to their fathers.”
The second scenario was one where Israel were smitten before their enemies because they had sinned against YHWH (compare Joshua 7:1-5). The prayer was that if they then turned again to YHWH (repented), and confessed His Name (believed), and made supplication towards the Temple as the place where YHWH had established His Name’, then YHWH would hear from Heaven, and forgive their sin, and allow them remain in the land which He had promised and given to their fathers. In other words that they might not be driven out of their land in the way that YHWH had commanded that they drive the Canaanites out of it. Note the emphasis on ‘hear’ and ‘forgive’ and the consequence.
The change from ‘bring them again to the land’ to ‘let them remain in the land’ does not alter the basic Hebrew text. It simply requires a change of pointing (of pronunciation of the original consonants). It is required because if the people were outside the land they would not be able to ‘make supplication in this house’. For the phrase ‘smitten down before your enemies’ see Leviticus 26:17; Deuteronomy 28:25. For the idea of ‘the land that you gave to their fathers’ compare Deuteronomy 19:8; Joshua 18:3.
1 Kings 8:35-36
“When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against you, if they pray towards this place, and confess your name, and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, then hear you in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, and of your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and send rain upon your land, which you have given to your people for an inheritance.”
The next example is when heaven is shut up so that there is no rain as a consequence of the fact that they have sinned against YHWH. Palestine was especially dependent on rain because it had almost no permanent rivers. Thus rain at the proper season was vital for their agriculture. The idea that God’s people were dependent on YHWH for rain from Heaven is constant throughout the Law of Moses (specifically in Leviticus 26:4; Deuteronomy 11:11-17; Deuteronomy 28:12; Deuteronomy 28:24; compare 2 Samuel 1:21; Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:1-5; Isaiah 55:10-13), for the rain filled the wadis and the natural wells, and produced the springs. See also 1 Kings 17-18.
Again the thought was that if they prayed towards the Temple and confessed His Name (believed) and turned from their sin (repented) when He afflicted them in this way, He would hear in Heaven (note not in the Temple) and forgive their sins. And this would result from the fact that He would teach them the good way in which they should walk, and the consequence would be that rain came on their land, the land which was given to them as their inheritance.
Note once more the emphasis on ‘forgiveness, a central concept in this prayer, a concept which is taken from Leviticus and Numbers. For the phrase ‘when Heaven is shut up and there is no rain’ compare Deuteronomy 11:17. It is an idea also found in the Ugaritic literature (written prior to Israel’s entering into the land). For the idea that the land was given to them as their inheritance see Numbers 16:14; Numbers 26:53-54; Numbers 32:18; Numbers 34:2; Numbers 34:29; Numbers 36:2; Deuteronomy 4:21; Deuteronomy 4:38; Deuteronomy 12:9; Deuteronomy 15:4; Deuteronomy 19:10; Deuteronomy 21:23; Deuteronomy 24:4; Deuteronomy 25:19; Deuteronomy 26:1; Joshua 14-24.
1 Kings 8:37-40
“If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting or mildew, locust or caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities (gates); whatever plague, whatever sickness there be, whatever prayer and supplication be made by any man, or by all your people Israel, who shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands towards this house, then hear you in heaven your dwelling-place, and forgive, and do, and render to every man according to all his ways, whose heart you know (for you, even you only, know the hearts of all the children of men), that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land which you gave to our fathers.”
Solomon then turned his thoughts towards the many natural disasters that could come on the land - famine, pestilence, blasting (by the Sirocco winds from the desert), mildew (a parasite fungus resulting from overmuch rain), locust and caterpillar, belligerent enemies, sickness and plague, and the plague within men’s hearts that set them to praying. And once they had recognised the plague that was in their hearts and spread forth their hands towards YHWH’s house (the Temple), Solomon asked that YHWH would hear ‘in Heaven His dwelling-place’, and would forgive, and work within His people a heart that feared His Name.
Note again his emphasis on the fact that YHWH’s supreme dwellingplace was not in the Temple but in Heaven, the need for repentance (a recognition of the plague in their own hearts), the necessary cry for forgiveness, and the desire for the action of YHWH in restoring their hearts, and their continuation in the land which YHWH had given to their fathers in godly fear. There was ever before their thoughts the fact that God’s judgment on the Canaanites had been that they would be driven out of the land that they inhabited. Thus he prayed that the same might not happen to Israel.
Note the thought which is contained here of prayer by individuals. This kind of disaster could strike at individual families, some here and some there, rather than the whole land.
In a verse where we might expect to find many parallels if any specific passage had been in mind there are in fact quite remarkably, given the subject matter, almost none. For famine in the sense in mind here see Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:1; Genesis 41 often; Leviticus 26:19-20. For pestilence compare Leviticus 26:25; Numbers 14:12. For blasting and mildew compare Deuteronomy 28:22. For locusts see especially Exodus 10 (often) and Deuteronomy 28:38. There is no mention of caterpillar in the Law of Moses. But as these are common disaster experiences it is really a collection from general knowledge and common sense, which indicates a general knowledge of the whole Law of Moses, and of the land, rather than a concentration on any particular piece of literature. After all Solomon took a great interest in the phenomena of nature (1 Kings 4:33).
“In the land of their cities (literally ‘gates”).’ The point here, of course, is that it was only their cities that could be besieged with the concentration being on their massive gates. But Solomon wanted to connect the idea with the land that YHWH had given them. This is an advancement on being smitten down by their enemies, which had in mind the open battlefield. Here prolonged sieges were in mind, of a kind carried out, for example, by David on Ammon (2 Samuel 10). Some see ‘in the land, in the gates’ as signifying both in the countryside and in cities.
1 Kings 8:41-43
“Moreover concerning the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for your name’s sake, (for they will hear of your great name, and of your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he shall come and pray toward this house, hear you in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you for; that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by your name.”
This quite remarkable emphasis on YHWH’s openness to the prayers of foreigners brings out Solomon’s breadth of vision. It visualised a time when foreigners would hear of what God had done and would come to the Temple to seek the God of Israel (see 1 Kings 10:1-13; 1 Kings 10:24-25; 2 Kings 5; compare Exodus 12:48; Numbers 15:14; Psalms 2:10. The idea was expanded by Isaiah 56:6 ff. For the idea of hearing what God has done see also Exodus 15:14-16).
It is a prayer that assumes a state of peace, expansion and prosperity like the time of Solomon, a time when Israel’s messengers and traders were going out to the world and were being received as honoured guests, and when the fame of Israel was being spread abroad. Then foreigners would learn of YHWH’s greatness and of what He had done for Israel, especially in delivering them from Egypt, and would come to worship Him and pray in His Temple. (Solomon was trying to bring home to the people the great vision that he had in building the Temple). And his prayer was that YHWH would hear the prayers of such people, and that YHWH would answer them from ‘Heaven His dwellingplace’, and do what they asked, so that all the peoples of the earth might know His Name, and fear Him, just as His people did. And the result would be that, as a consequence of their answered prayer, they would know that this Temple was distinctive from all others and was called by the Name of YHWH, because in a very real sense YHWH had manifested His presence there by answering their prayers.
For the phrase ‘far country’ see Joshua 9:6; Joshua 9:9. For ‘mighty hand’ and ‘outstretched arm’ see Deuteronomy 26:8. Compare Exodus 32:11, ‘with great power and with a mighty hand’.
1 Kings 8:44-45
“If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to YHWH towards the city which you have chosen, and towards the house which I have built for your name, then hear you in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.”
The final scenario is of the case where the war is being taken to the enemy (and therefore very different from 1 Kings 8:33, and having worse possible consequences) because YHWH has sent them. Then when from the land to which they have gone (‘by whatever way you shall send them’) they pray to YHWH towards the city which He has chosen, and the house which Solomon has built in His Name, he asks that YHWH will hear their prayer and supplication in Heaven, and hear and maintain their cause, giving them victory.
So praying towards the Tabernacle in the centre of the camp has now become praying towards the Temple in the centre of the land. Both were seen as the focal point through which Heaven could be reached because His Name was there, as a result of the presence of the Ark. Notice how Solomon was now trying to convince the people (and YHWH) that YHWH had chosen Jerusalem. This is the first mention of such an idea in Kings, and indeed in Scripture up to this point.
1 Kings 8:46-48
“If they sin against you (for there is no man who sins not), and you are angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn again, and make supplication to you in the land of those who carried them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have dealt wickedly,’ if they return to you with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you towards their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city which you have chosen, and the house which I have built for your name,”
But in all cases victory could not be assumed, even though they have been sent by YHWH. For there they might well sin against Him (always an especial danger during a belligerent campaign) and as a result YHWH might be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy so that they were carried off captive to their enemy’s land, whether far or near (Cushan Rishathaim of Mesopotamia would be an example of ‘far’ - Judges 3:8). The carrying off of captives was not just something practised by the great nations like Assyria and Babylon. They simply did it on a huge scale. It was common practise with prisoners of war. And it was common practise whenever nations invaded another nation. Indeed one of the spoils that they looked for was plenty of slaves to sell on or keep for their own use. We have the perfect example in 1 Samuel 30:2, 1 Samuel 30:5-6, 1 Samuel 18:1 where one of the reasons for the Amalekite invasion was in order to take captives as slaves. Compare also Deuteronomy 20:14; Deuteronomy 21:10-11 where it was simply assumed as a matter of course that Israel would do the same. We can hardly doubt that other nations reciprocated. Consider for example Naaman’s Israelite slave girl (1 Kings 5:2).
So this idea of being carried away captive did not require later history to make sense. Indeed in Leviticus 18:25-28; Leviticus 20:22. YHWH had warned against the possibility of His ‘spewing them out’. It was thus to be expected. There would be many Israelites in captivity who had been there as a consequence of the wars described in the Book of Judges and since, and many more would be taken captive during the coming wars with Syria and other enemies. It was something that was happening all the time. And it was Solomon’s prayer that when such people were carried into captivity they might remember YHWH and call on Him from wherever they were, and admit that they were sinners who had behaved sinfully (for as Solomon has pointed out there are none who sin not), with the result that their captors would treat them more leniently. There was no suggestion of restoration from their captivity. It recognised that they would be there permanently and referred rather to compassion being shown to them in their captivity.
And the point was that wherever YHWH’s people were they should be able to look towards the land, and towards Jerusalem and towards the Temple, as they had once looked towards the Tabernacle, and be sure that YHWH would hear them. The spirit is more that of Leviticus 26:38-45 than of Deuteronomy 28-29, for in the latter there is a clear promise that they will be restored to their land, something which Solomon did not have in mind here (it is so clear in Deuteronomy that it is difficult to see how he could have overlooked it had he had that passage in mind). There is not even the hint of a return from captivity. This was indeed the condition of many Israelites who had been taken captive since the time of Joshua. It has nothing to do with the Exile. And we can safely say that while this prayer could have been prayed by someone who had in mind Leviticus 26 or who had a working knowledge of extracts from Deuteronomy (like, say, Solomon), it could not have been written by a thoroughgoing Deuteronomist.
Note again the emphasis on repentance (‘we have sinned, and have done perversely, we have dealt wickedly’) and on faith (‘if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul -- and pray’), and on the desire that they receive forgiveness for all their sins and transgressions, because they were still the people of His inheritance. And he prayed that YHWH’s eyes might be opened towards them and He would hear their cry, because they were the chosen of YHWH (Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 20:1-18) in spite of their captivity.
For the warning about being carried away captive on a large scale as a judgment on His people way (but not in these specific terms) see Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64. For His eyes being open towards them see on 1 Kings 8:29.
1 Kings 8:49-50
“Then hear you their prayer and their supplication in heaven your dwelling-place, and maintain their cause, and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions in which they have transgressed against you, and give them compassion before those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them,”
The word used for ‘sinning’ here indicates gross rebellion. Thus the forgiveness is greatly needed. We note again the centrality of forgiveness in response to repentance, and the emphasis again that YHWH will hear them ‘in Heaven Your dwellingplace’. As we have seen forgiveness was a subject emphasised in Leviticus and Numbers, although there a sacrificial ministry was in mind (and would be assumed in most of Solomon’s prayer). Here there could be no sacrifices offered (at least as far as we are aware) because they were in a far off (or not so far off) land. That YHWH heard ‘from Heaven’, and not from some far off Jerusalem, was also important. Wherever they were He was within reach. And the whole point is that in the place of their captivity they would experience the compassion of their captors because they had repented towards Him.
“For they are your people, and your inheritance, which you brought forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron,”
Here the emphasis is not on the land as their inheritance (1 Kings 8:34; 1 Kings 8:36; 1 Kings 8:40) but on the people themselves as His inheritance (Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 32:9), the people whom He had brought forth from Egypt (Exodus 20:2; Exodus 32:11; Leviticus 25:42; Leviticus 25:55; Leviticus 26:45; Deuteronomy 9:12; Deuteronomy 9:26; compare 1 Kings 4:20), ‘from the midst of the furnace of iron’ (Deuteronomy 4:20; Jeremiah 11:4).
“For they are your people and your inheritance.” YHWH had proved it by delivering them and declaring His great favour towards them, both in the covenant and in giving them the land. They were His chosen race, His holy nation, His treasured possession (Exodus 19:5-6).
“That your eyes may be open to the supplication of your servant, and to the supplication of your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they cry to you.”
And Solomon’s hope was that because YHWH’s Central Sanctuary had again been established, the prayers of he and YHWH’s people might be more efficacious whenever they cried to Him. ‘That your eyes may be open’ takes up the thought of their being His people and His inheritance. That is why His eyes will be open towards them, not because of their own deserving, but because He has chosen them as His own.
“For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth, to be your inheritance, as you spoke by Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord YHWH.”
For the reason why YHWH would hear them was not to be because of the Temple, but because He had separated them from all the people of the earth to be His inheritance (Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 33:16; Leviticus 20:24; Leviticus 20:26 compare Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 32:8). And this was in accordance with the Law of Moses in Exodus 33:16. For ‘brought forth out of Egypt’ see on 1 Kings 8:51.
It was a fitting statement on which to end his prayer, for it made clear that in the end it was not the Temple which was the be-all and end-all of things in his eyes, but the people. It was they who were YHWH’s treasured possession, and it was because He had chosen them and delivered them and made them His own within the covenant. They were a people separated to Him.
1 Kings 8:54
‘And it was so, that, when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication to YHWH, he arose from before the altar of YHWH, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread forth toward heaven.’
This is the closing verse of the inclusio, which parallels 1 Kings 8:22. Solomon had now concluded ‘praying all this prayer and supplication towards YHWH’, and we learn that such had been his fervour that he had fallen on his knees with his hands still outstretched towards Heaven. Everyone who has truly prayed knows something of this experience, commencing by standing or sitting, and being so moved that they finish up on their knees. If only he could have maintained this zeal for YHWH to the end how different things would have been. But like so many he would get caught up by the world.
Solomon’s Closing Blessing Of The People (1 Kings 8:55-62).
In his first blessing (1 Kings 8:14-21), prior to his major prayer, Solomon had been concerned to establish the credentials of the Temple. Now, however, his concern was for the spiritual life of the people in a blessing which to begin with clearly echoes the last part of the Book of Joshua. Like Joshua he was calling on them once again to renew the covenant (see Joshua 24). He consequently called on YHWH not to forsake them but to incline their hearts to obey and follow Him, and to so hear the intercession that he had made that He would maintain the cause of His people and bring glory to His Name throughout the earth. And he then completed his blessing with a call to the people of Israel to walk truly with God in full obedience to His commandments.
a And he stood, and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, “Blessed be YHWH, who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. There has not failed one word (dabar) of all his good promise, which he promised by Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:55-56)
b “YHWH our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. Let him not leave us, nor forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers” (1 Kings 8:57-58).
c “And let these my words, with which I have made supplication before YHWH, be nigh to YHWH our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel, as every day shall require, that all the peoples of the earth may know that YHWH, he is God; there is none else” (1 Kings 8:59-60)
b “Let your heart therefore be perfect with YHWH our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day” (1 Kings 8:61).
a And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before YHWH (1 Kings 8:62).
Note that in ‘a’ Solomon blessed the assembly of Israel and pointed out what YHWH had done for them, and in the parallel the king and all Israel offered sacrifices before YHWH. In ‘b’ He calls on God to incline their heart to obedience to His commandments, and in the parallel he urges the people to obey His commandments. Centrally in ‘c’ he asks that YHWH would so hear the prayer that he had prayed that He might maintain their cause and bring glory to His own Name around the world.
1 Kings 8:55-56
‘And he stood, and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, “Blessed be YHWH, who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. There has not failed one word (dabar) of all his good promise, which he promised by Moses his servant.”
Having completed his dedicatory prayer Solomon then stood and blessed ‘the assembly of Israel’, pointing out that YHWH had fulfilled, in an even greater way than He had previously, His promise to Israel of rest from all their enemies. He saw his day as being the culmination of all God’s promises of rest, for as he looked around the kingdom appeared stable, and no enemies were remotely threatening.
His words here very much have the closing chapters of the Book of Joshua in mind, with Solomon extending the ideas to his own day. We should consider, for example, Joshua 22:4, ‘and now YHWH your God has given rest to your brothers as He spoke to them’. Joshua 23:1, ‘and it came about after many days, when YHWH had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about.’ Joshua 23:14, ‘not one good word (dabar) has failed of all the good things which YHWH your God promised concerning you’ (said Moses).. Thus Solomon saw these words as finding even deeper fulfilment in the circumstances in which Israel now found themselves than they had in Joshua’s day. And we should note that in these words Joshua was leading Israel up to the point of renewing the covenant and renouncing all other gods (Joshua 24:23-25).
And many a time after that Israel had found rest from all their enemies. It was not a new concept. Consider for example Judges 3:11; Judges 3:30; Judges 5:31. But the problem was that every time that rest had been disturbed because other enemies had arisen. But now at last it appeared as though God had given permanent rest to His people.
This idea of God’s rest now given was again prominent in 2 Samuel 7:1; 2 Samuel 7:11, where it led up to the giving of the everlasting covenant to David. And in 1 Kings 5:4 Solomon saw it as grounds for building the Temple, which he saw as associated with that covenant. It may well be that he had Deuteronomy 12:10-11 in mind where the arrival of God’s rest was to be followed by the establishing of His Sanctuary at the place where YHWH would choose, which Solomon now saw (and wanted the people to see) as Jerusalem. These words in Deuteronomy had already, however, been fulfilled, when Joshua renewed the covenant at the holy site at Shechem (Joshua 8:30), the place at which YHWH had clearly recorded His Name (note how Exodus 20:24-25 is cited as authority for his act), prior to His choosing Shiloh. And we need have no doubt that Joshua had arranged for the offering of burnt offerings on the altar on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30) at that covenant ceremony, for no covenant ceremony would have been complete without them. (See also 1 Chronicles 22:9; 1 Chronicles 22:18; 1 Chronicles 23:25).
And now as Solomon looked around at his great empire, and his doughty warriors, and his powerful chariots, he probably felt that they had attained to the ultimate rest. For what could possibly disturb the peace of such an empire? And he wanted it known that the Temple was closely connected with this final fulfilment of YHWH’s promises of rest, as the Sanctuary to supersede all sanctuaries. It must have appeared that all was well indeed.
“YHWH our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. Let him not leave us, nor forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.”
Solomon then expressed the heartfelt desire that YHWH would be with them as His people. ‘May YHWH our God be with us as He was with our fathers’. His hope was based on the evidence of YHWH’s faithfulness through history. This idea that YHWH would be ‘with them’ finds continual expression in Israel’s worship in Psalms 46:7; Psalms 46:11.
“Let him not leave us, nor forsake us.” And he prayed that YHWH would never leave them or forsake them. The words are taken from his father’s Psalms 27:9, ‘You have been my help, leave me not nor forsake me, O God of my salvation.’ And they echoed the promise given to David in the everlasting covenant that, ‘My mercy will not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul’ (2 Samuel 7:15). For God’s faithfulness to the king meant His faithfulness to his people. His dependence was on YHWH’s faithfulness to His promises.
But he recognised that God’s blessing depended on obedience, and so he called on God to incline their hearts to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments, statutes and judgments. He recognised that it could only be as a result of God’s specific work on their hearts that they were likely to be obedient (compare Philippians 2:13). The combinations cover every aspect of Mosaic Law. For the idea of ‘inclining hearts’ compare Judges 9:3; Psalms 119:36. To ‘walk in all his ways’ is found in Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 11:22; Joshua 22:5, although the thought is also contained in Genesis 5:24; Genesis 17:1; Leviticus 18:4; Leviticus 26:3; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 26:17; Deuteronomy 30:16. The combination of commandments, statutes and judgments in this order is found only in Deuteronomy 26:17; Deuteronomy 30:16; but it is noteworthy that in Deuteronomy the ‘all’ in ‘all His ways’ is omitted in both cases. See also 1 Kings 2:3; 1 Kings 3:14; 1 Kings 6:12; Genesis 26:5; Exodus 15:26; Leviticus 26:3; Leviticus 26:15; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 5:31; Deuteronomy 6:1-2; Deuteronomy 6:17; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 11:1; etc.; 2 Samuel 22:23. It is not therefore a direct citation from any source (although very close).
1 Kings 8:59-60
“And let these my words, with which I have made supplication before YHWH, be nigh to YHWH our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel, as every day shall require, that all the peoples of the earth may know that YHWH, he is God; there is none else.”
He then expressed the pious wish that the prayer that he had prayed might be near to God day and night so that He might ‘maintain the cause of His servant, and the cause of His people Israel, as every day shall require’. But, of course, the only way to ensure that that would be so would be to continue to pray it daily. Stale prayers are of little value. And that was where Solomon (Israel’s intercessor), in spite of all his wisdom, would fail. (How different it is for those who have a constant and unfailing Intercessor praying on their behalf day and night - Hebrews 7:25).
“That he maintain the cause of (make the case effective of) His servant and His people Israel.” This was a desire that YHWH would constantly step into their situation and see that they received what was right. It assumed obedience. It was only as they walked with Him that they had a right to blessing.
And his final aim was that all the peoples of the earth might see YHWH’s unique faithfulness to His people and recognise that it indicated that ‘He is God and there is no other’ (compare 1 Kings 18:39; Deuteronomy 4:35; Isaiah 45:5).
“Let your heart therefore be perfect with YHWH our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.”
He then called on the people to make this true by having hearts that were fully dedicated towards God and to His covenant so that they would walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as they were doing at this time. The call was for full obedience to the covenant as expressed in the Law of Moses.
“And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before YHWH.’
The blessing then resulted in a whole hearted response from Israel as the king and all the people ‘offered sacrifice’ before YHWH. This would be done by their laying their hands on and slaughtering the animals, with the priests acting on their behalf in the presentation of the blood.
The Great Sacrificial Offering And Feast (1 Kings 8:63-66).
This special feast of dedication commenced seven days prior to the Feast of Tabernacles (thus incorporating the Day of Atonement). Large scale offerings were made during it, and they were of such a dimension that the bronze altar, which was apparently the one thing that had been brought from the Tabernacle for current use, was of insufficient size for the purpose of both offering the burnt offering and burning the fat of the multitudinous wellbeing (peace) offerings. The consequence was that the middle of the Inner court had to be especially hallowed so as to assist with the burning of the fat. What in fact was probably hallowed for the purpose may well have been the great rock (eighteen metres (sixty feet) by fourteen metres (forty five feet) by around one and a half metres (five feet)) which we know from later tradition was situated in the Inner court area, and which later gave its name to the present ‘Dome of the Rock’, for when examined this bore the marks of having been used for sacrifices. But that is by no means certain.
The Feast of Tabernacles then followed, and at the end of ‘the eight day’ of that feast the people returned to their temporary booths full of rejoicing at what had occurred. They would return home on the morrow in the same spirit.
a And Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which he offered to YHWH, two and twenty thousand oxen, and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep (1 Kings 8:63 a).
b So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of YHWH (1 Kings 8:63 b).
c The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of YHWH, for there he offered the burnt-offering, and the meal-offering, and the fat of the peace-offerings, because the brazen altar that was before YHWH was too small to receive the burnt-offering, and the meal-offering, and the fat of the peace-offerings (1 Kings 8:64).
b So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from Libo-Hamath to the wadi of Egypt, before YHWH our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days (1 Kings 8:65).
a On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king, and went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that YHWH had shown to David his servant, and to Israel his people (1 Kings 8:66).
Note that in ‘a’ large-scale sacrifices were offered of ‘wellbeing’ offerings, and in the parallel they returned home from the feast with rejoicing. In ‘b’ the king and the people dedicated the house of YHWH, and in the parallel a special seven day feast of dedication was held prior to the feast of Tabernacles. Centrally in ‘c’ the central inner court was sanctified for the offering of sacrifices because the brazen altar was insufficient for the number of sacrifices.
1 Kings 8:63
‘And Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which he offered to YHWH, two and twenty thousand oxen, and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of YHWH.’
As we gather from the previous verse and from the following verse ‘Solomon’ signifies ‘him and all the people’, with Solomon prominent in the process. The daily burnt offerings and meal offerings would have to be offered, but on top of those were offered a multitude of sacrifices of peace (wellbeing - shelamim) offerings in honour of YHWH. Of these offerings only the fat was burned, the remainder, apart from what was given to the priests, contributing toward their feasting. They numbered twenty two sacrificial units of oxen and one hundred and twenty sacrificial units of sheep (the sacrificial units may have been literally in ‘thousands’ (eleph) or they may have been related to the size of the ‘wider families’ (eleph)). How large a number this came to we do not necessarily know, but the huge crowds gathered on this special occasion, urged on by the king, would require huge amounts of meat.
Similar huge offerings at feasts for the dedication of new buildings have been testified to at Nimrud, Ashur and Nineveh, accompanied by similar feasting and rejoicing.
1 Kings 8:64
‘The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of YHWH, for there he offered the burnt-offering, and the meal-offering, and the fat of the peace-offerings, because the brazen altar that was before YHWH was too small to receive the burnt-offering, and the meal-offering, and the fat of the peace-offerings.’
In fact so huge were the numbers of offerings and sacrifices that the bronze altar, which had been brought from the Tabernacle (which would explain why no altar was made earlier), and which was five cubits (just over to metres or seven and a half feet) by five cubits, was insufficient for the task. The brazen altar would be required for the morning and evening burnt offerings and meal offerings, and for the special burnt offerings and sin offerings of the Feast of Tabernacles (see Numbers 29:12-39), thus to handle the fat from the multitudinous wellbeing offerings as well would have proved too much for it. So the middle of the Inner court was hallowed especially for the purpose. This Inner court probably contained the massive stone described above, which may well have been co-opted as an emergency altar. It may have been this experience that resulted in the making of a bronze altar twenty cubits by twenty cubits by ten cubits in height as described in 2 Chronicles 4:1.
1 Kings 8:65
‘So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from Libo-Hamath to the wadi of Egypt, before YHWH our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days.’
The number of people present at the feast is emphasised. There were more than attended the usual annual feasts. (No doubt Solomon’s invitation had been hard to refuse). For they formed ‘a great assembly’, coming from as far north as Libo-Hamath, a city attested to in the Egyptian execration texts and situated roughly a hundred and sixty miles north of Dan (Dan was the most northern part of Israel prior to the time of David. Compare ‘from Dan to Beersheba’). It was seen as the ‘ideal’ boundary of Israel (Numbers 34:8; Joshua 13:5; Amos 6:14). And from as far down as the Wadi of Egypt. Alternately some prefer to translate lebo-Hamath as ‘the approaches to Hamath’, recognising that Hamath itself was a friendly vassal state (2 Samuel 8:10). And this was for a feast of extra length, commencing seven days before the Feast of Tabernacles and going on until ‘the eighth day’ of the Feast of Tabernacles, thus lasting for fourteen days.
The Wadi of Egypt, many miles south of Gaza, was the southernmost area of occupation prior to reaching Egypt and was known by the Assyrians as Nahal (Wadi) Musri.
1 Kings 8:66
‘On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king, and went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that YHWH had shown to David his servant, and to Israel his people.’
And on ‘the eighth day’ of the Feast of Tabernacles (Numbers 29:35; Leviticus 23:36; compare John 7:37), presumably towards sunset, Solomon gave permission for the feast to end and the people to go home, and they returned to their ‘tents’ (their temporary booths) full of rejoicing ready, for the homeward journey on the morrow. The rejoicing at the Feast of Tabernacles was proverbial for it signified the end of the agricultural year, but this was a special joy for it included the thought of what YHWH had done for Israel in the goodness that He had shown towards David, and therefore to Israel His people.
“Blessed the king.” Gave him praise and thanked God for him because of what he had done for Israel. (They were hardly likely to do anything else, but they did have good reason to be joyful, especially at the end of such a prolonged feast).
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 8". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany