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THE BUILDING OF SOLOMON’S TEMPLE
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
1 Kings 6:1. Began to build the house of the Lord—The chronological year is carefully noted, and no criticism supplies reason for changing the figures here given. The Sept. reads 440 instead of 480, but is supported by no ancient MS. The site was Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1). “The uneven rock of Moriah had to be levelled, and the inequalities filled by immense substructions of great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones” (1 Kings 5:17).—Stanley.
1 Kings 6:2. Cubits—The ancient standard length of a cubit was one foot six inches English measure. The structure is separated into three main architectural divisions: “the house” (1 Kings 6:2), “the porch” (1 Kings 6:3), and “the chambers round about” (1 Kings 6:5). The house הַבַּיִת was constructed of massive atone walls (1 Kings 6:6-7), and included two compartments; the front is called (1 Kings 6:5) “the temple of the house” הֵיכַל הַבּיִכ and the “oracle” (1 Kings 6:6) in the rear, הַדְּביר
1 Kings 6:4. Windows—Of their number, situation, and shape or size no information is given, none therefore possessed. With narrow lights—Probably lattices.
1 Kings 6:5. Chambers round about—On three sides of the “house” there were chambers in three stories.
1 Kings 6:11. And the word of the Lord came to Solomon—i.e., during the erection of the sacred structure, in order to encourage the king in his work, and remind him of the solemn conditions under which he reared a temple for Jehovah. The word “if thou wilt” (1 Kings 6:12) would warn the king and people against assuming that God would be satisfied with a magnificent building. He required spiritual consecration: without that in them He would never “dwell among” them (1 Kings 6:13) in His manifested glory over the mercy seat
1 Kings 6:15. The cedar was used for the inner walls and ceiling, the cypress (“fir”) for the floor.
1 Kings 6:16. The whole internal space of the “house” was divided by a cedar wall from the floor to the ceiling, this partition consisting of folding doors, drawn to and fro by golden chains (1 Kings 6:21); these two apartments were respectively the front, measuring forty cubits square, “the holy place,” לִפְנַי, and the rear, measuring twenty cubits square, “the most holy place,” דְּבּיר
1 Kings 6:18. Knops and open flowers—Bitter gourds and opened buds.
1 Kings 6:21. He made a partition by the chains of gold—i.e., he made the partition to go upon golden chains; or worked the partition by golden chains.
1 Kings 6:22. The whole house he overlaid with gold—i.e., the entire interior of the holy place, and the altar, and the holy of holies.
1 Kings 6:23. Two cherubim of olive tree—These כְרוּבִים were of a form which can only be conjectured by us. In Ezekiel 41:0 and Revelation 4:0 further descriptive indications are given; but the cherub is represented variously, with one, two, and then four various faces; and with two, four, or six wings; probably colossal figurative images of manifold and majestic life. “Standing on the highest step of created life, and uniting in themselves the most perfect created life, they are the most perfect revelation of God and the Divine life.”—Bahr. Olive wood was employed in their construction, as being most solid and durable. Their outspread wings spanned the entire breadth of the temple from side to side, meeting and touching in the centre of the holy “oracle” (1 Kings 6:27).
1 Kings 6:29. Carved all the walls … within and without—lit., from within to without, מִלִּפְנִיְם וְלַחיצוֹן i.e., from the inner oracle, the holy of holies, to the outer compartment, the holy place.
1 Kings 6:34. The two leaves of the one door were folding—It seems from this that the door consisted of two wings, or halves, and these were made like leaves of the wild olive tree, either longitudinally like leaves bound together, or the two leaves were the upper and lower halves of each door wing.
1 Kings 6:37. In the fourth year, &c.—The time occupied in erecting the temple was from the second month of the fourth year to the eighth month of the eleventh year of Solomon’s reign; i.e., about seven years and a half; a short period for so magnificent an edifice; but the large number of workmen employed, and the vast preliminary preparation of stones and timber which were used, explain the comparative speed with which this temple of Jehovah’s glory was reared and finished.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 1 Kings 6:1-38
THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON AN EMBLEM OF THE CHURCH OF GOD
I. The Church of God, like the Temple of Solomon, rests on a solid foundation. In forming the sub-basement of the gorgeous temple on Mount Moriah huge stones were quarried, carefully chiselled and squared, and laid deep in the earth with the utmost precision (1 Kings 5:17). Josephus says: “The king laid the foundation of the temple very deep in the ground, and the materials were strong stones, and such as would resist the force of time. These were to unite themselves with the earth, and become a basis and sure foundation to sustain with ease those vast superstructures and precious ornaments whose own weight was to be not less than the weight of those other high and heavy buildings which the king designed to be very ornamental and magnificent.” So the church of God is securely settled on a foundation of truths that know no decay, and which shall survive the wreck and ruin of the most solid structures of earth. In vain tempests rage, or earthquakes rumble, or enemies assail—this foundation is immovable: the truth of God is unalterably the same.
II. The Church of God, like the Temple of Solomon, is composed of a great variety of materials. The stone, the wood, the gold, the brass, the iron, and the textile fabrics used in the construction and beautifying of the material temple point out the great diversity of moral character which now constitutes the temple of God (Luke 13:29). The stars that glitter in the firmament vary in magnitude, in motion, and in embellishments; but their light is one, and they together form the same grand temple of the skies. Diversity in unity is the leading characteristic in all the works of God.
III. The Church of God, like the Temple of Solomon, is gradual and silent in its erection (1 Kings 6:7.) When Bishop Heber read to a friend his poem on Palestine, he was reminded that in describing the Temple of Solomon he had made no reference to the silence in which the building proceeded. The poet turned aside, and in a few minutes struck off the beautifully expressive line:—
“Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprang.”
“In order to reconcile the spirit of the new architecture as nearly as possible with the letter of the old law (Deuteronomy 27:5-6), the stones were hewn in the quarries and placed with reverent silence one upon another without sound of axe or hammer, and the temple rose as if by the gradual growth of nature.” The work was not done in haste. Years had been spent in thoughtful and substantial preparations; and more than seven years were occupied in the actual building (1 Kings 6:1; 1 Kings 6:37-38). Some of the greatest movements are for a time veiled in obscurity until the right moment comes, when the obscurity vanishes, and the vastness and splendour of the work elicit the wonder and admiration of the age. We are familiar with this process in the natural world and in the progress of individual history. The fruits of the earth do not reach maturity at a bound. Slowly and in secret the bud is rounded, then comes the delicately-tinted blossom, and afterwards the glossy, mellow fruit. The same may be said of the growth of human character. It reaches the higher grade of mental and moral excellence by slow and silent stages, and advances in the same ratio with the fidelity and energy with which the man carries out the great plan of his life-career. The plan and scope of our individual life is often obscure to us; but as we endeavour to work out that part that is clear, the whole gradually becomes more distinctly defined. And so in rearing the temple of God, the work proceeds deliberately and noiselessly. Such a method is an education and discipline to the church. The grandest truths of God are not comprehended suddenly by the weakness of man: inquiry is provoked and faith in the divine wisdom and power encouraged.
IV. The Church of God, like the Temple of Solomon, is the scene of hal lowed worship.
1. There the truth of God is deposited. “The oracle he prepared in the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of the Lord” (1 Kings 6:19). The ark contained the two tables of stone, inscribed with the ten commandments which testified to the nature of the covenant existing between Jehovah and his people. Over the ark stretched the wings of the cherubim (1 Kings 6:23-27). This was the very throne of Jehovah, who was said to “dwell between the cherubim.” It was also called the Mercy Seat or Propitiatory, because Jehovah there revealed himself, especially on the great day of atonement, as “God pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin.” Nor was it without the profoundest allusion to the coming dispensation of the gospel that God’s throne of Mercy covered and hid the tables of the law. The attitude of the cherubim was significant of the desire of angelic intelligences to learn the gospel mysteries that were hidden in the law. The more complete revelation of the divine will is committed to the custody of the Christian church, and it is her function to disseminate the knowledge of that will. Acquaintance with divine truth is essential to intelligent and acceptable worship.
2. There praise is offered. The devout Israelite rejoiced to praise God in His sanctuary. Praise is the essence of all true worship. Should be offered continually (Psalms 34:1). Should be intelligent and fervid (1 Corinthians 14:15). Is often the precursor of special blessing (compare 2 Chronicles 5:13-14; Nehemiah 9:6; Nehemiah 9:9; Nehemiah 9:12; Nehemiah 9:17; Nehemiah 9:25-26; Acts 16:25-26). Should always follow the reception of blessing (Acts 2:46-47). The prophetic description of the heavenly temple designates its walls “salvation,” and its gates “praise.”
3. There the divine glory is manifested. The Temple of Solomon was the scene of revelations of overpowering splendour (2 Chronicles 5:14). The glory of Jehovah shone forth from between the cherubim (Psalms 80:1). The sanctuary has ever been the place where the soul has beheld its brightest visions (Psalms 63:2). The church is the repository of heavenly mysteries and the academy where they are explained. Here many a dark mind has been illumined, many a burdened soul relieved, many a strange providence interpreted, many a tangled question settled. The manifestation of Jehovah to the soul fills it with solid satisfaction and radiant joy.
V. The Church of God, like the Temple of Solomon, is the dwelling place of Jehovah (1 Kings 6:11-13). The presence of Jehovah is the charm, the life, and the glory of the church. “Methinks,” says Bishop Hall, “I see four temples in this one. It is but one in matter, as the God that dwells in it is but one; three, yet more in resemblance, according to the division of them in whom it pleases God to inhabit; for wherever God dwells, there is His temple. O God! Thou vouchsafest to dwell in the believing heart. The heaven of heavens is not able to contain thee, and yet thou disdainest not to dwell in the strait lodgings of our renewed souls. So, then, because God’s children are many, and those many divided in respect of themselves, though united in their head, therefore this temple, which is but one in collection, as God is one, is manifold in the distribution, as the saints are many; each man bearing about with him a little shrine of this Infinite Majesty. This temple of stone, though most rich and costly, yet what is it to the living temple of the Holy Ghost, which is our body? What is the temple of this body of ours to the temple of Christ’s body, which is His church? And what is the temple of God’s church on earth to that which triumpheth gloriously in heaven?”
VI. The Church of God, like the Temple of Solomon, is permanent in its reputation. Notwithstanding the chequered history of the Temple—the glory of its prime, the humiliation of its decay; its disasters, its transformations, its demolition—it retains to this day a conspicuous place in the veneration of the wandering and scattered Israelites, and in the esteem and marvel of the religious world. Its memory will never perish: the material type has vanished; the spiritual antitype endures. So the church of God, alternating with the ebb and flow of reverses and triumphs, is ever advancing more distinctly into view, is gaining on the admiration and affection of the race, and is winning for herself immortal renown.
THE BUILDING OF THE HEAVENLY TEMPLE (1 Kings 6:7)
The house built in this mysterious silence was the first temple at Jerusalem. Of all earthly objects this, to the ancient Jew, was the most sacred and dear. If he loved his God, it was the scene of his sweetest joys. If he loved Him not, he loved His temple. The men who wrote the Scriptures partook of this feeling. Would they raise the believer in Jesus to his highest honour? “Know ye not,” says one, “that ye are the temple of God?” Would they describe the church in her brightest glory? The beauty of Zion is made an emblem of her; the church is represented as “an holy temple,” designed and builded for its Creator’s praise. The subject before us is a view of the redeemed church as a temple now building by God in an eternal world.
I. The materials of which it is composed. And what are they? They came to it from a very far country. Heaven itself could not supply them. In themselves, they are worthless; but the means which have been employed to remove them thither have made them costly, precious. They are an innumerable multitude of sinners, brought from the fallen world on which we are standing—materials strange indeed to be employed in such a place, but better calculated than any other to manifest the wisdom and the power of God. They are well described as “stones made ready.” A stone, in its original state, is rough and unshapen, incapable of separating itself from its native rock, and, even if separated, unfit for the workman’s use. It may serve for the wall of a mean and humble structure; but the builders of a temple will not touch it. Now, this is precisely our natural state. It was once the state of all the redeemed. But a blessed change at length transformed them. These stones were “made ready” for a glorious building; these senseless, mean, sinful beings were prepared for heaven; and the work was God’s. He selected them, chose them out from among their fellow-sinners, and then formed them a people for himself. The exterior of the earthly temple at Jerusalem was of polished marble; it glittered, we are told, with a snowy whiteness; and nothing was seen within but cedar and gold; but as for this heavenly house, he calls its walls “salvation,” and its gates “praise.” Here stands revealed that truth which every view that we can take of heaven confirms, “Ye must be born again.” The stones were made ready, not in this house, but “before they were brought thither.” No axes or hammer were found there to prepare them. Nor are any means of grace to be found beyond the skies. There no preacher warns, no afflictions soften, no patient Saviour entreats, no spirit strives.
II. The foundation of this heavenly building. And how wonderfully adapted is this to the materials of which it is composed! The sinners who are now rejoicing in glory had another world once given them. It was a good, a fair, and happy world: but they lost it; at least they lost its happiness, and covered it with misery and death. They have now another kingdom bestowed upon them; but will they not lose this also? The fallen angels once possessed it; but though they “excel in strength,” they kept it not. How, then, shall worms of the dust be safe in so high a station? The same omnipotent Being who redeemed their souls from destruction, and formed them for heaven, has covenanted, pledged Himself, to keep them secure for ever. Hence, if we speak of them as a building, the Holy Spirit testifies of Him as the foundation on which it stands. He is its chief “corner stone,” its “sure foundation;” the support, the security, the immovable resting place, of the whole fabric. He sustains this relation now to the church on earth, and He is as ready in His love, as able in “the greatness of His strength,” to bear the weight of the far happier and wider church above. The convulsions that shake the worlds from their places will not throw down a pillar, nor even loosen a stone, of this mighty structure; the events of eternity will not move it. There is underneath it a living, an everlasting Rock, on which it is not only built, but to which it is united. It is in it, become a part of it; so that it can no more be torn from it than that Rock itself can be shivered and destroyed. “In Jesus Christ,” says St. Paul, “all the building groweth.” “In Him ye also are builded together.”
III. The manner in which this temple is built.
1. Like almost every work of its great author, it is accomplished gradually. The first stone of it was laid when righteous Abel found himself in glory; and since that period, another and another has been added, according to the good pleasure “of Him who worketh all things after the council of His own will.” Sometimes it has risen slowly; at other times it has advanced with wonderful rapidity; but at all times “the God of all grace” has been employed on it, so that the building has increased in height and glory through all generations. In the present day the Lord is hastening His work. He is “adding to His church daily such as shall be saved;” and after He has made them ready, He takes them from this His earthly habitation, and fixes them, one after another, in their places, in His fairer temple above.
2. This temple is building also constantly, steadily, surely—without interruption or hindrance. Earthly structures do not proceed thus. Unforeseen difficulties embarrass, and unavoidable delays retard. Sometimes the design of the builder is changed; at other times he is baffled in carrying it into effect. It is not so, however, when God builds. His purposes never change; they can never be frustrated. “Before the mountains were brought forth,” He formed the stupendous plan of His heavenly house. It was the work, the masterpiece, of His infinite skill; and it contains “treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” which angels cannot explore, nor eternity unfold. The directions given for the Jewish temple were minute; but in this most glorious edifice nothing was overlooked. It was “ordered in all things, and sure.” We know but little of the magnificence of this plan, but were it possible that it could be yet more vast, we know that there is ability in Christ to perform it all. His people, though more numerous than the stars of heaven, shall all “be willing in the day of His power;” and as for His enemies, they can no more impede His designs, than a host of worms could delay the rolling of the glorious sun.
3. Thus goes the building on, gradually, constantly; but yet, all this time, silently. Turn again to the Jewish temple. “There was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building” (1 Kings 6:7). This silence has something in it deeply mysterious. It could not have happened from mere chance. It was undoubtedly enjoined by God, and intended to convey some important truth. The question is, What is that truth? And this is not easily answered.
(1.) It intimates, the unnoticed and secret manner in which God carries on His purposes of grace in a tumultuous world. What is the history of the world? A history of commotions. Its great men have seldom moved, but confused noise and garments rolled in blood have marked their footsteps. They have struggled till whole kingdoms have resounded with their deeds, and this poor distracted earth has resembled “the troubled sea when it cannot rest.” But God, in the midst of them, unperceived and almost unthought of, is bringing His own purposes to pass; is making “the wrath of man to praise Him,” and the wickedness of man to do His will. He presides in the storm. The waves thereof toss themselves, but He turns every billow that swells to the furtherance of His own glory.
(2.) The silence in this temple may remind us of the secret operations of God in the souls of men. Sometimes He turns their thought to Himself by the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, by means which are visible and striking; but it is generally in “the still small voice” that He manifests Himself as the God of their salvation. The seed is sown in their hearts, they know not when; “it groweth up they know not how;” it brings forth fruit of which they themselves are often unconscious. They are ripened for heaven in a way which they understand not, and then they die, and go there by a road which none can discover. They lie down in the grave, and all is silence. And what a peaceful world do they enter!
(3.) The stillness among the Jewish builders might be designed to remind us of the peace of heaven. All there is unbroken calmness. Changes and afflictions have ceased. The souls they so often assailed and wrought on, need them no more. No longer earthly, they are now heavenly and faultless. All is purity, and perfection, and brightness. The work is done; the instruments thereof are cast aside; and not a sound is heard but the voice of overflowing blessedness, and the songs of adoration, and the shout of praise. Now what may we learn from this part of our subject? We are taught not to despair of the cause of God even in the darkest scenes. Look where we will, the state of the world is indeed deplorable. But amid all its clamour and strifes, the work of God is going gradually, surely, silently on. We hear the voice that is lifted up in the streets, the conqueror’s shout, the wrangler’s curse, and the worldling’s song, but we hear not the prayer of the broken heart, we see not the bended knee, we mark not the spirit that in this cottager’s hut, or in that poor man’s dwelling, bursts joyfully from its prison of clay, and is carried home by the angels of God. We may learn here, too, the character of true religion. Nothing is more common in some parts of our land than an ostentatious, noisy display of affected piety. Beware of a love of display. Beware of a bold, forward, unmeaning tongue. It will please, it will deceive, none but the simple; it will disgust all the wise. Let your tempers, let your lives, speak with a louder voice than your words. True religion is a silent, humble, retiring thing. It is as modest as it is bold. It will come into public notice, rather than leave misery unrelieved, ignorance unaided, or any duty undone; it will brave the opposition and cruelty of a whole world, rather than sin; and then it will retire into its closet, and be seen only by its God.
IV. The great end for which this heavenly temple is raised. And this, perhaps, is too often overlooked. The temple of Solomon was not built for this single purpose, that it might be “a house of prayer for all nations.” It was designed to be the habitation of God, the seat of His presence, and a monument of His name. And this heavenly temple is erected for the same purpose; not so much for the sake of the living and shining stones that compose it, as for the honour of its great builder; not so much for the salvation of the poor outcasts of the earth, as for the glory of the power, wisdom, and grace of the great God of heaven. Brethren, will this blessedness be ours? The edifice of which you have been hearing is not a creation of fancy, the baseless fabric of a dream. It is as true that there are pardoned sinners joyful in heaven, as that there are dying, suffering sinners within these walls. It becomes a question, then, and a very solemn one, Shall we ever see this glorious temple? Shall we ever form a part of it? To answer this question we must ask another: Are our souls emblems of this great building? Are we now “the temples of the Holy Ghost?”—“habitations of God through the Spirit?” With such a weight of glory before us, shall we repine at the strokes which are making us ready for its honours and happiness? What if the blows fall heavy and fast? The sound of the axes and hammers will the sooner cease; if not, the more honourable will be our place in the building, the more shall we show forth in heaven the glory of the Lord.—C. BRADLEY.
HOMILETICS OF 1 Kings 6:23-28
THE CHERUBIM EMBLEMATIC OF THE HIGHEST FORMS OF LIFE
THE doctrine of the CHERUBIM has elicited a great variety of views among the ablest expositors. By some the symbol has been made to signify either the four covenants; or all the creatures; or the four cardinal virtues—justice, wisdom, fortitude, and temperance; or the four faculties in the soul—rational, irascible, concupiscible, and conscience; or the four chief passions—joy, grief, hope, and fear; or the four great monarchies; or the four elements; or the four evangelists. Others have contended that the cherubic figures were intended to symbolize the Divine Persons in the Sacred Trinity—the figure of the lion being associated with the human form to indicate the promised incarnation; or that they were glowing emblems of the character and modes of operation of the Third Person of the Trinity; or that the cherubim were no other than holy angels, and the figures of them in the Temple were symbolical representations of their nature and ministry. Dr. Kitto argues in favour of the opinion that the cherubim represent the whole multitude of the redeemed from among men, not of any section of the church, nor of any class of its members, but of the great body of believers in the Atonement throughout all ages, countries, and nations. “In the immediate application of this symbol,” he writes, “it may be said that, when the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, which he never did without the blood of atonement in his hands, and looked upon the Ark of the Covenant with its cherubic appendages, with the Shekinah enthroned between, he beheld, in fact, but a miniature model of what he saw on a large scale without, when standing amidst the many thousands of Israel abiding in their tents. Here were the cherubic symbols resolved into their constituent multitudes; and over the host rested in calm majesty the pillar of cloud, the visible external token of the Divine presence permanently residing among the tribes. And even this was, as our further light indicates, but a type of that which the Israelites could not see, and would not like to have seen, of multitudes redeemed to God, out of all nations, by the blood of atonement, forming the Church of God among whom He should dwell.” For homiletical purposes, the more practical views entertained on this subject may be combined by regarding the Cherubim as emblematic of the Highest Forms of Life.
I. The cherubim were emblematic of life in general. A conspicuous and extraordinary feature of the cherubim was their wings (1 Kings 6:24; 1 Kings 6:27, compared with Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 1:23-25). Wings are suggestive of motion, and motion of life. As the eye of the devout worshipper rested on the figures of the cherubim carved on the cedar walls of the temple and on the folding doors of the oracle (1 Kings 6:29-35), he would be reminded that life in its lowest forms had its origin from that Being before whose awful presence he bowed. The world teems with evidences of life. The swarming insects, the merry, fluttering birds, the gleaming, trembling waters with their countless inhabitants, display to the observer that earth, air, and sea, are pregnant with vitality. Life at all times and in any aspect is full of mystery; it eludes the keenest search and puzzles the ablest analyst. The ancients recognized the Divine origin of life in their story of Prometheus, who climbed the heavens by the assistance of Minerva, and stole fire from the chariot of the sun, which he brought down in a hollow stick or ferule to animate his man of clay. The genius of man may construct mechanical marvels, but it cannot inspire life. All life depends for its origin and perpetuity on the will of God. This seems the first and most elementary truth suggested by the cherubic symbol, and its surrounding decorations of palm tree and open flowers (1 Kings 6:29).
II. The cherubim were emblematic of manifold forms of life. The cherubim were composite images significant of all forms of creature life, and symbols of the living presence of Jehovah in all departments of the animal world. Their form is described in the opening vision of Ezekiel 1:5-11. Each cherub had four faces and four wings, and every part of their appearance seems to have been symbolical of some aspect or manifestation of Divine energy and power in creature life. A Jewish proverb says, concerning the cherubim: “Four are the highest things in the world: the lion amongst the wild beasts, the bull amongst cattle, the eagle amongst birds, the man is over all, but God is supreme.” God, on the other hand, is common to these four, and the life uniting them, which they have not of themselves, but from Him who is the source of all life—the Creator, and hence stands and is enthroned above them all. The distribution and limitation of life are among the mysteries and wonders of creation. The character of each individual plant or animal is decided and shaped by the measure of life-force it contains. This accounts for the endless variety to be found in nature. But life, in whatever form or degree manifested—whether in the crawling worm or the majestic lion, in the slimy frog or the stately bull, in the humble sparrow or the soaring eagle, in the sluggish octopus or in divinely-imaged man—has but one source in God. This idea of the cherubic figures, as representative of multiform life, was evidently embodied in the mythologies of the ancients, though travestied by many an extravagance. We observe it in the Egyptian Sphinx, or Serapis, compounded of the human and the quadruped; in the Persian Mithra, sun and bull; and in the Roman Diana, horse, dog, and man.
III. The cherubim were emblematic of the higher forms of spiritual life. “These cherubim,” observes Bahr, “as beings standing on the highest step of created life, and uniting in themselves the most perfect created life, are the most perfect relation of God and the Divine life.” This life is enjoyed in a very lofty degree by the angels, who are frequently represented in Scripture by cherubic symbols; but the higher possibilities of the spiritual life are reserved for those who accept, by faith, the blessings of the atonement, shadowed forth by the teachings of that mercy-seat on which the cherubim bent their meditative gaze. The first mention of the cherubim in Genesis 3:24 is suggestive. Man had fallen; transgression had brought its penalty: he was already subject to the fear of death. Still, between him and this issue stood the tree of life; he might still eat and live for ever. God saw his wretchedness, and in mercy interposed; for what would life be but one protracted curse beneath the frown of the angry and unpropitiated Deity? A voice is heard, but it is from the Shekinah; communion may be held, but it must be from between the cherubim; a more spiritual economy is already inaugurated; man’s attention is to be turned from the paradise of earth to the paradise of heaven; sacrifices already foreshadow the mediatorial atonement, and the first development of the Spirit’s operations is seen in restraining man from impending evil, and conducting him to a holier and more spiritual life. The cherubic symbols were but figures borrowed from nature to represent great spiritual qualities, and they were eminently adapted to do so. What better type could be found of intelligence, wisdom, sympathy, and every generous and tender emotion, than the face of man; of strength, courage, and magnanimity of spirit than the body of the lion; of patient endurance, unwearied service, and meek submission to the yoke, than the face of the ox; and of an active, fervent, soaring spirit, than the wings of an eagle?
IV. The cherubim were emblematic of the operations of the Third Person in the Trinity as the source of the highest kind of life. Some writers have contended that the vision of cherubic splendour recorded in Ezekiel 1:0 symbolizes the offices and work of the Holy Spirit; that not more fully are the glowing pages of Isaiah occupied with a delineation of Christ’s birth, life, sufferings, death, and the glories which should follow, than is the sublime and majestic scroll of Ezekiel, full from end to end of the illustration of that mighty agency, the Holy Ghost, whether viewed under the emblems of fire, air, or water. This argument is ingeniously set forth in a lecture on the cherubic symbol, delivered before the Young Men’s Christian Association in London, by Dr. J. B. Melson, in summarizing which he observes, “We have seen this symbol restraining our first parents in paradise; witnessing to the acceptance of the sacrifice of Abel; assuring Abraham of his inheritance in Mamre; connected with the commissioning of Moses, in which we have a type of that commission which every faithful minister of God must receive; guiding, defending, and comforting the children of Israel in their wanderings; and showing forth the very method in which the Spirit still guides, defends, and comforts God’s Israel in our day. We have entered Solomon’s temple, and seen it beautifying the place of the Divine residence with its infoldings and its unfoldings until the priests could no longer minister by reason of the glory. We have seen the same symbol mysteriously connected with the revelation of God’s will to Ezekiel, Daniel and Isaiah, and with the glowing representations of regenerating, quickening, and sanctifying energy with which the pages of the prophet of Chebar abound. Daniel saw the glory in its cherubic chariot ascending into heaven, the shepherds beheld it returning again to earth. This glory conducts the wise men to Bethlehem, and clothes the top of Tabor with its fleecy light; it receives the conqueror as he rises triumphant, enriched with the spoils of death and of hell. The glory carries him up into heaven from the heights of Olivet, and descends in flame upon the heads of the disciples at Jerusalem, filling the room where they were sitting.” In this view, the work of the Holy Spirit is brought more vividly and constantly before the mind than a cursory student of Scripture would observe; it localises and embodies the spiritual and unseen; it helps to differentiate the subtlest influences; it strengthens faith, and stimulates the soul to seek after a more intensely spiritual life.
1. It is the tendency of all life to assume some visible form.
2. Great spiritual truths are strikingly represented by well-known material symbols.
3. The spiritual life of the believer is a grander reality than its most imposing emblems.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
1 Kings 6:1; 1 Kings 6:38. Why was the time for building the Temple so exactly specified?
1. Because it was a most important event to Israel. It points to the final aim of the leading out of Egypt, the land of bondage. The time of the wandering, of unrest, and of battle, is over; Israel is in possession of the whole of the promised land; the time of the kingdom of peace is come. The temple is a memorial of the truth and mercy of God, who ever fulfils his promises, albeit after many long years (Exodus 3:17), supplies all wants, and governs things excellently. The word of the Lord is sure. After long wandering, after many a cross, many a tribulation and trouble, comes the promised time of peace; the Lord helps His people, even as He preserves every single being unto His heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).
2. Because it is a world-historical event. The temple of Solomon is the first and only one in the whole ancient world which was erected to the one, true, and living God. Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people (Isaiah 60:2). Heathendom had here and there greater temples, but they were the abodes of darkness: this temple is the abode of light and life; from it light breaks forth over all nations (Isaiah 2:3; Jeremiah 3:7; Micah 4:2). What avails the greatest, most glorious temple, if darkness instead of light proceeds from it, and, amid all the prayers and praises, the knowledge of the living God is wanting?
1 Kings 6:2. The exceeding glory and pomp of the temple.
1. The idea to which it bore witness. No house, no palace in Israel compared, for splendour and glory, with the house of God. Everything in the shape of costly material and treasure which the age permitted, all toil and art were lavished upon it. To the Most High were given the noblest and dearest of men’s possessions. How many princes, how many nations, how many cities build gorgeous palaces, and adorn with gold and all treasures the buildings designed to minister to the pride of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and to a haughty manner of life; but yet have no money, no sacrifice, for the temples which either are entirely wanting, or are poor and miserable in appearance!
2. The purpose which it served. Its magnificence has no empty, dead show, to dazzle and intoxicate the senses; everything was full of meaning, and referred to higher, Divine things; it was not meant to render sensual man still more sensual, but to draw him nearer to the supersensuous, and thus to elevate him. Empty parade is unseemly for any house of God; rather must everything which wealth and art can accomplish serve to raise the heart and mind to God, so that each one shall say, This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:17).—Lange.
—The same rule that skilful carvers observe in cutting out the perfect statue of a man, that the height be thrice the breadth, and the breadth one-third of the height, was likewise duly observed in the fabric of the temple, whose length was double to the height and treble to the breadth, as being sixty cubits long, thirty high, and twenty broad. How exquisite a symmetry hast thou ordained, O God, betwixt the faithful heart and thy church on earth, with that in heaven! How accurate in each of these, in all their powers and parts, compared with others! So hath God ordered the believing soul that it hath neither too much shortness of grace, nor too much height of conceit, nor too much breadth of passion; so hath He ordered His visible church, that there is a necessary inequality without any disproportion, a height of government, a length of extent, a breadth of jurisdiction, duly answerable to each other: so hath He ordered His triumphant church above, that it hath a length of eternity, answered with a height of perfection and a breadth of incomprehensible glory.—Bp. Hall.
1 Kings 6:3; 1 Kings 6:16-17. As the temple hath three distinctions of rooms—the porch, the holy place, and the holy of holies, so is each of them answered spiritually. In the porch we find the regenerate soul entering into the blessed society of the church; in the holy place the communion of the true visible church on earth selected from the world; in the holy of holies, whereinto the high priest entered once a year, the glorious heaven into which our true High Priest, Christ Jesus, entered once for all to make an atonement betwixt God and man.—Bp. Hall.
1 Kings 6:5. All round there was an additional construction of three stories, the foundation of which leant upon the outer wall of the house, which, on this account, grew narrower every storey, so that the rafters of the circuit leant upon it without being let into the wall. Thus was the temple, like the heart, concealed, its walls with their graceful proportions, as they rose towards heaven, becoming lighter and finer; upon them, however, rested the outer building which belonged to them, as the whole being rests upon the heart filled with faith.
1 Kings 6:7. The greatest works often proceed in deepest silence.
1. Examples in the motion of the celestial bodies, the force of gravition, the flow of the tides, the growth of vegetation.
2. Noise and demonstrativeness are no evidence of real progress.
3. The most impressive feature in all Divine operations is their silence.
4. The voiceless testimony of the church before the world is often irresistibly effective.
—The temple is framed in Lebanon, and set upon Zion. Neither hammer nor axe was heard in that holy structure. There was nothing but noise in Lebanon; nothing in Zion but silence and peace. Whatever tumults are abroad, it is fit there should be all quietness and sweet concord in the church. O God, that the axes of schism, or the hammers of furious contentions, should be heard within thy sanctuary! Thine house is not built with blows, with blows it is beaten down. O knit the hearts of thy servants together in the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace, that we mind and speak the same things, that thou who art the God of peace mayest take pleasure to dwell under the quiet roof of our hearts!—Bp. Hall.
—The building of the Temple emblematic of the building up of Christian character. The erection of the Temple was a type of the building up of Christian character—an emblem of the manner in which the Spirit of God builds up the minds of men in holiness. If we attempt to dismiss entirely from our thoughts all things that are material, we shall not find it easy, nor, perhaps, possible, to realise the ideas for which they stand. For instance, take the case of sacrifice: turn away your mind entirely from any material, visible sacrifice, and can you tell what a sacrifice is—a sacrifice of God? Then, again, dismiss from your mind the material image of a temple, and could a Jew, can you, fully grasp the thought of God dwelling in man—a mind in a mind, intellect in intellect, reason in reason, will in will?
I. The erection of the Temple was God’s work. It was built by His express direction, and He connected Himself with it in a manner not common to any place on earth. Men were sometimes inspired to speak and sometimes to act; and under the guidance of this inspiration the Temple was erected, and God Himself condescended to preside over it in a special manner. Thus it was the erection of God Himself, and was intended as a book in which the Jews might read high and Divine principles.
Now leave the Temple, and look at the Christian, and there learn that God is at the foundation of Christian character—that the erection, the progress, the completion of the Christian character, and its consummation in heaven, is an idea and work of God. The Temple answered political and civil ends; but it also shadowed forth some great spiritual truth; and what was that truth? That the great God means to make living souls His dwelling place, intends to live with men, and that there is such a thing as the union of the Spirit of God with the Spirit of man And hence the soul of man is called in the New Testament “a living temple.”
II. The Temple, as an emblem of the Christian, was the place of mercy, the place of law, the place of worship.
1. The Temple was a place of mercy. There was erected a throne of mercy; there mercy was, as it were, localized. God’s design was, to give man a clear conception of mercy. Mercy was in the heavens, mercy was in the seasons, mercy breathed in all things around the Jewish people; but they did not recognise it, they did not realize it. In the Temple there was a bright emblem of mercy—mercy in a state of incarnation. But it is only a Christian that has a clear idea of mercy as a living principle. Men in general do not feel their need of mercy at all. The Christian knows his need of it, and knows the reality of mercy as an attribute of God. As soon as the need of mercy becomes a living idea in the heart, it exerts a softening influence, it produces humility. It is possible to talk of mercy, and be proud, hatefully proud; but as soon as the need of mercy becomes a genuine operative principle, it makes the soul deeply, sweetly humble. It produces peace—peace between man’s intellect and truth, between man’s will and holiness, peace between man’s desires and God’s government. It is with the Christian as with the Temple. The glory of the Temple was within. It was externally glorious, but its true glory was the Shekinah, the indwelling of the Spirit of God.
2. The Temple was a place of law. The law was deposited in the ark, and it remained there until the wars with Titus. But leaving the history of the written law, turn to the indwelling of law in the heart of the Christian. Look at the significant words of inspiration—“This is the covenant I will make with thee, saith the Lord, I will put my laws in their minds, and write them in their hearts.”
3. The Temple was a place for worship. Worship is internal. In the Temple there was communion with the Divine presence; there was the light of the Shekinah, there was the sacrifice offered, there the incense ascended. Have you seen or realized the Being you worship? God has made all things, as it were, double. There are dualities everywhere. We know that if the eye sees, it has external objects suited to its operation; if the ear hears, it has sounds to meet its capacity. Now, if we were simply matter, this would be all; but we are spirit, and there is something to answer to spirit. It is God! And by the Temple was taught the glorious truth that the Divine Spirit and human souls come together. The great work of Christ is to carry, in a living manner, the presence of God down into the human heart; to transfuse God’s mind into the mind of man. It is repelling, it is resisting this, that will ruin men. This, then, is the main idea suggested, that the consecration of man as a temple is the work of God.
III. The erection of the Temple was a noiseless work. “There was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building.” Oh! the severity, the stillness, the quietness, of the growing up of this extraordinary edifice! The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. “A bruised reed will He not break; He shall not lift up nor cry, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.” The building up of the human soul as a temple is a quiet, noiseless work. There is very little religion where there is much bustle, very little religion where there is much ostentation. We shall not suffer by giving a little more time to deep, quiet, severe thinking, to secret communion with the unseen; to the inner unostentatious work of heart worship. This fellowship with ourselves and the indwelling Spirit of God is the essence of true religion, and the true idea of a spiritual temple.—Caleb Morris.
1 Kings 6:11-13. The soul as the home of God.
1. Is garnished with moral and spiritual virtues.
2. Is designed as a permanent dwelling (1 Kings 6:13).
3. Is clustered with the memories of happy fellowships.
4. Is retained by continued obedience: disobedience involves desertion.
1 Kings 6:18; 1 Kings 6:22. “There was no stone seen; the whole house he overlaid with gold.” The strength and beauty of moral character.
1. Moral character must be firmly based on a foundation of imperishable truth.
2. A strong, vigorous character is often bid under the veil of the brightest and tenderest graces.
3. Religion in its higher development is essentially aesthetical.
4. The church of God combines and exhibits every moral excellence. “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”
1 Kings 6:20. The construction of the Most Holy Place in the form of a perfect cube had, doubtless, its typical significance. It was an appropriate symbol of perfection. The solid cube, in whatever way it is set, is always upright, a perfect square on every side, and all sides and angles corresponding perfectly to each other. So this form of the inner sanctuary indicated that the Holy One of Israel dwelleth in perfection.
1 Kings 6:38. “Solomon began,” says Wordsworth, “to build the temple in the flower-month, and finished the building in the fruit month. Such is the life of the church, and of every believer who is a temple of the Spirit. It begins in flowers, but must end in fruit. The harvest is the end of the world.”
—The temple of Solomon was not distinguished, like the temples of Thebes, for gigantic vastness, for it was not a very large structure, but rather for its harmonious proportions, its beauty and completeness of workmanship, and the excessive costliness of its materials. And the church, the spiritual house of the living God, is to be specially distinguished for the excellency and completeness of the elect and precious stones which are required to build it; for these are not the many that go in the broad way to destruction, but the comparatively few that find the way of life (Matthew 7:13-14).—Whedon.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany