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THE SPLENDOUR OF SOLOMON’S BUILDINGS
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
1 Kings 7:1. Solomon was building his own house thirteen years—Because no previous building preparations had been made for the palace as for the temple, and there was less urgency about the king’s house than that God’s Holy Place should be prepared wherein He and His people might meet; and Solomon was more zealous in his work for Jehovah than for himself.
1 Kings 7:2. He built also, &c. Lange, Michaelis, and others regard this “house of the forest of Lebanon” as the first of the various edifices composing the palace, not a separate summer residence on Lebanon Probably his own house, this house of the forest of Lebanon, and the house for Pharaoh’s daughter, were sectional structures, unitedly forming one grand royal abode. Called the “house of the forest of Lebanon” on account of rows of cedar trees built together in its construction. It seems to have been an armoury (1 Kings 10:16-17; Isaiah 22:8). Its form was apparently an open court, surrounded by colonnade and galleries; “the inner surface was used, no doubt, for assemblies of warriors, the body guard,” &c. (Lange).
1 Kings 7:6. A porch of pillars—This was the second division of the palatial edifice, and formed the Court of Judgment; in the rear of the porch of pillars, which was an extended colonnade, was located this “porch of judgment” (1 Kings 7:7), where the “throne” stood.
1 Kings 7:8. Solomon made also a house for Pharaoh’s daughter”—This, according to Eastern custom, would be not a building distinct from the king’s house, but a rear part of it, although a structure complete in itself. Jamieson arranges this complex edifice thus: the building itself was oblong, consisting of two square courts, flanking a large oblong hall which formed the centre, and was properly the house of the forest of Lebanon, being the part where were the cedar pillars of this hall. In front was the porch of judgment. On the one side this large hall was the king’s house; on the other, the royal apartments for Pharaoh’s daughter.
HOMILETICS OF 1 Kings 7:1-12
THE ETHICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PALACE OF SOLOMON
The group of buildings described in these verses constituted one and the same royal palace. It included several edifices within itself. The principal one was the great hall of state, encased in cedar, and so called “the House of the Forest of Lebanon” (1 Kings 7:2). In front of it was reared a pillared portico (1 Kings 7:6). Between this portico and that part of the palace which was set apart for the royal residence was a cedar porch of exquisite proportions and surpassing beauty, called the Porch of Judgment (1 Kings 7:7). Adjoining these erections, separated by an inner court, was the residence of the king; and beyond this, and connected with it, was the house of his Egyptian consort, built after the gorgeous pattern of the porch of cedar (1 Kings 7:8). This magnificent pile of buildings was surrounded with a spacious court, decorated with a colonnade of stones and cedar (1 Kings 7:12). The palace of Solomon was thirteen years in building: the Temple of the Lord was erected in seven. We should ever manifest more zeal and eagerness in prosecuting the work of God than in making provision for our material comfort. The results of Christian work remain when the most imposing fabrics of human pride and luxury have crumbled into ruin. The palace of Solomon suggests the following reflections.
I. That religion is not inimical to, but promotive of, the highest art. The iconoclasm that would destroy every vestige of a work of art, because of its possible abuse in matters religious, is the fruit of the reckless barbarism of a barbarous age. In all great reforms, whether in the Church or in the State, it is difficult to prevent excesses: there are always some wild extremists who commit enormities that bring discredit upon the best of causes. Religion has often suffered in reputation by the rude vandalism of a few; and the Church of God has been held up to scorn as the enemy of the arts and sciences. And yet it is evident to the thoughtful that religion has ever been the foster-mother of true genius: she inspires the noblest and purest conceptions, and supplies the most exalted themes for the pen, the pencil, or the chisel. In all ages, whatever has been grandest in architecture, most exquisite in painting, most chaste in statuary, and most celebrated in song, may be traced to the influence of the religious spirit. It is only religion that saves the arts and sciences from becoming the ministrants of the most revolting vices.
II. That it is the duty of the king to defend and maintain the best interests of his people. In the royal palace were deposited the weapons of war, the targets and shields of beaten gold (1 Kings 10:16-17). Thus was set forth the mission of the king against his enemies—his protecting war-strength. In the Porch of Pillars, sometimes called the Tower of David—apparently hung over the walls outside, as was the custom in many warlike cities, were a thousand golden shields, which gave the whole palace the name of the Armoury. “With a splendour that outshone any like fortress, the tower with these golden targets glittered far off in the sunshine like the tall neck, as it was thought, of a beautiful bride, decked out after the manner of the East, with strings of golden coins. Five hundred of them were made by Solomon’s orders for the royal guard; but the most interesting were the older five hundred which David had carried off in his Syrian wars from the guard of Hadadezer, as trophies of arms and ornaments, in which the Syrians specially excelled. It was these which, being regarded as spoils won in a sacred cause, gave, in all probability, occasion to the expression ‘the shields of the earth belong unto God.’ ” When the Israelites first desired a king, one important purpose was that he might go out before them and fight their battles (1 Samuel 8:20): and they would be reminded of this every time they gazed upon the glittering shields of the royal armoury. A good monarch makes the best welfare of his people his constant study; and he is ever ready to protect them from the assaults and ravages of the foe. William the Silent, of Holland, devoted all his treasures and talents with such self-denying bravery in defending and delivering his oppressed countrymen, that “as long as he lived, he was the guiding star of a brave nation; and when he died, the little children cried in the streets.”
III. That the administration of justice is an essential part of good government. The most attractive portion of the palace of Solomon was the Porch of Judgment, in the interior of which the throne was erected. It represented the royal elevation and majesty, and signified the vocation of the king in judging and ruling his subjects. “This porch,” writes Stanley, “was the gem and centre of the whole empire, and was so much thought of that a similar likeness to it was erected in another part of the royal precinct for the queen. Within the porch itself was to be seen the king in state. On a throne of ivory brought from Africa or India, the throne of many an Arabian legend, the kings of Judah were solemnly seated on the day of their accession. From its lofty seat, and under that high gateway, Solomon and his successors after him delivered their solemn judgments. That porch, or gate of justice, still kept alive the likeness of the old patriarchal custom of sitting in judgment at the gate; exactly as the gate of justice still recalls it to us at Granada, and the Sublime Porte—the Lofty Gate at Constantinople. He sat on the back of a golden bull, its head turned over its shoulder, probably the ox or bull of Ephraim; under his feet, on each side of the steps, were six golden lions, probably the lions of Judah. This was the seat of judgment. This was the throne of the house of David.” Where justice is perverted, the nation suffers; government is impossible, and the people become the victims of a sateless avarice, or a cruel tyranny. “The king by judgment established the land;” but when “the law is slacked and judgment doth never go forth,” disorder and anarchy ensue.
IV. That magnificence in architecture is a substantial evidence of national prosperity and culture. Temporal aggrandisement was an important element in the blessing that Jehovah had promised the Jews on condition of their obedience. In consequence of their own sins, they had tasted the bitterness of the warning, but not till now did they attain the full glory of the promise. To preclude the possibility of the objection being raised that the motive of reward had not been tried in God’s dealings with His people, they are favoured for a brief period with the material splendour and religious progress of the era of Solomon. Their public buildings, in temple, palace, and fortresses; their enriching and extended commerce; their splendid apparel and sumptuous banquets, were unmistakable indications of the wealth, luxury, and refinement of the times. “Kings and princes cannot, on account of their high position, choose to live in ordinary houses, or yet in poor hovels; it is simply folly to reproach them when they build castles for themselves. The building of palaces becomes sinful and blameable only when they are built for the gratification of ostentation and insolence, or at the expense of a poor and oppressed people.”
V. That regal and national aggrandisement is fraught with many dangers.
1. There is the danger of unguarded pride. Few could bear the popularity which Solomon reached, or resist the temptations to which he was exposed. All that the world most highly prizes were at his disposal—wealth, power, beauty, knowledge. He is not the first whose brain has been turned by a plethora of wordly abundance. “Great riches,” says Lord Bacon, “have sold more men than ever they have bought out.”
2. There is the danger of an enfeebling indulgence. At the bottom of every sparkling cup of pleasure is the bitter dreg—satiety. To revel in the voluptuousness and sin which unlimited wealth may furnish, destroys the very capacity for enjoyment. The pleasure is still pursued long after it has ceased to be a pleasure; and the unsatisfied votary has to moan
O! pleasures past, what are ye now,
But thorns about my bleeding brow:
Spectres that hover o’er my brain,
And aggravate and mock my pain!
3. There is the danger of a disastrous and irreparable decay. It is sad to observe amid the gayest bloom of national or individual life the withering leaves of approaching and inevitable decline. At the brightest noonday of Solomon’s glory the coming shadow of his fall was already discernible. Worldly prosperity is “like a river that beareth up things light, and drowneth things weighty and solid.” Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
1. The most imposing scene of earthly greatness is but temporary in its duration.
2. The greater the treasures of a nation, the greater is the responsibility of the ruler.
3. The religious life of a nation is the most precious possession, and in its results the most enduring.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
1 Kings 7:13. Fetched Hiram out of Tyre—He seems to have been eminent among the artists in metals for which Tyre and Phœnicia were then renowned. This man (of like name with the king) is designated in 2 Chronicles 2:13, by the title of honour אב—i.e., master, teacher, father (Keil). His genius was a natural gift of God (1 Kings 7:14). Note the difference between this phrase concerning Hiram, “filled with wisdom.” &c., and the statement as to the supernatural endowments of Bezaleel (Exodus 31:3), “filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom,” &c.
1 Kings 7:15. Pillars of brass eighteen cubits high—These columns were 32½ feet long, without the capitals, and 7 feet in diameter; the metal was about 3½ inches thick (Jeremiah 52:21), and the total weight of each pillar must have been about 18 tons. The capitals were over 8 feet high (1 Kings 7:16), making a total height of 41 feet.
1 Kings 7:21. Jachin and Boaz—יָכִ֔ין means established (2 Chronicles 17:5); while בֹּעַז is a compound of עָז power, strength, and בוֹ in him—i.e., in God; ergo, strong in Him (Isaiah 45:24).
1 Kings 7:23. Molten sea”—עָגל; colossal brazen basin 17½ feet in diameter, over 8 feet in depth, capable of holding nearly 20,000 gallons of water.
1 Kings 7:25. Stood upon twelve oxen—of enormous size necessarily—similar to the Assyrian bulls; for the total combined weight of the vessel and water would be some 100 tons.
1 Kings 7:40. Lavers, for carrying away water; shovels, for removing ashes; basins for receiving the blood of sacrifices.
1 Kings 7:45. Bright brass—מְמֹרָטֹ, polished after the casting; brilliant, therefore.
1 Kings 7:46. In the plain of Jordan … between Succoth and Zarthan—Here the soil is stated to be entirely marl. “Succoth,” close by the mouth of the Jabbok; “Zarthan” (or Zaretan), whose site is uncertain, except that it was proximate to the Jordan, was near by Succoth. The distance from Jerusalem was considerable; but all the noxious smoke and vapours of the foundry would thereby be avoided; although the clay and sand found there doubtless determined the choice of the spot.
1 Kings 7:47. Solomon left all the vessels—The word unweighed is wisely inverted in the translation, for וַיַּנַּח means he let them be; the number was so great that their weight was not computed.
1 Kings 7:48. And Solomon made, &c.—As Hiram was equally “skilful to work in gold” (2 Chronicles 2:14), it is most probable that the king entrusted this work also to him.
1 Kings 7:51. The things which David his father had dedicated—From 1 Chronicles 22:14-16; 1 Chronicles 29:2 sq., we find that David’s store of gold, silver, &c., was vast, including the valuable trophies of his victories (cf. 2 Samuel 8:7; 2 Samuel 8:11-12; 1 Chronicles 18:7; 1 Chronicles 18:10-11), and his own private treasures (1 Chronicles 28:13-18). So abundant was the supply of precious metal that, although the quantity used for the temple was immense, there was a large store in reserve.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 1 Kings 7:13-51
RELIGION AND ART
Solomon determined to offer the best to God—the best in material, the best in form. He desired to have real works of art, and he so little despised art as the handmaid of religion, that he even sent for a heathen and foreign artist. In his wisdom, he regarded the command, “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image,” not as the prohibition of every species of religious sculpture. As Hiram’s mother was an Israelite, we may well surmise that he was not unacquainted with the God whom his mother worshipped, and, therefore, would be better able than all other Tyrian artists to enter into the right spirit and meaning of the works which Solomon entrusted to him. The elaborate decoration of the Temple, and the exquisite finish of its furniture as detailed in these verses, suggest several reflections as to the relation of Religion and Art.
I. Art imbibes its best inspirations from religion. Hiram “was filled with wisdom and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass” (1 Kings 7:14). The genius of art is a divine endowment. The skill of Hiram is referred to nearly in the same terms as that of Bezaleel (Exodus 31:3); but in the case of the latter it was a supernatural inspiration for a special purpose, while in the case of Hiram it was a natural gift of God. Like all true genius, it possessed the soul of the artificer with an irrepressible passion for his particular work. He was filled with wisdom and ingenuity to work. It is a dangerous, and often fatal infatuation, when a man dreams he is a genius, and does nothing more but dream. The greatest genius is he who has the greatest capacity for hard work, and who finds his greatest pleasure in it. The artist is ever as enthusiast. When Macready acted Romeo for the first time—being then only sixteen years of age—his success was so great that a host of friends crowded round him at the close, and shook his hand with fervent congratulations. A lady asked him, “Well, sir, how do you feel now?” and he, with a boyish ingenuousness, answered—“I feel as if I should like to act it all over again!” How much more pure and lofty should be the enthusiasm of the Christian artist!
II. Art fulfils its loftiest mission when it is consecrated to religious uses. All this wealth of metal and of talent was employed in building and embellishing the Temple of Jehovah. It is a sad and pitiful sight to see the leaders of art and science lending their great powers in antagonism to religion. And yet it is reassuring to know that the greatest minds, and those who have had the greatest influence in moulding the best thoughts of the world, have ever been among the most devout. Copernicus, whose system of the universe overthrew the delusion of many thousand years, was no enemy of religion. His tomb bears the following characteristic inscription:—
“I crave not the grace which Paul received,
Nor the favours with which Thou didst indulge Peter;
That alone which Thou bestowedst upon the thief on the cross,
That alone do I entreat.”
Kepler, Newton, and many others who were giants in the realm of science, were humble and zealous Christians. Genius gains its most entrancing visions, glitters with its brightest radiance, wins its most resplendent victories, and scatters its choicest blessings, when it devotes its best powers to expound and adorn religion.
III. Religion combines what is beautiful in art with all that is vigorous and substantial in principle. The Temple was firmly founded, massive and durable in structure, graceful and brilliant in ornamentation. The great Creator has so exquisitely proportioned His external dwelling-place that there is everything about it to delight the eye and gratify and elevate the taste. He has stamped upon it all the glory of form, irradiated it with all the brilliance and softness of colour, and finely attuned it to all the rapture and harmony of sound. The masterpiece of the most gifted artist is but a dim, imperfect reflection of the native, peerless beauty of the universe. Jehovah is said to “clothe Himself with light as with a garment;” and what are all His created works but a garment, jewelled with stars, embroidered with constellations, and heavy with the riches of all worlds? The Being whose self-created Temple is so full of grandeur and beauty is worthy of the most gorgeous sanctuary that the hand of man can fashion. The ocean loses none of its power because it is silvered with fretted foam, or sparkling with the golden sheen of reflected sunbeams. The mountain is not less majestic because it is belted with the feathery-branched pines, garlanded with slender wild flowers, and clothed with a purple robe of blooming heather. Nor does the religious hero lose anything in strength and stature because he wears “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”
IV. Art becomes dangerous and misleading when it usurps the place of religion. The principle laid down and developed by Neander is the true one—that the design of the Christian religion, which is to promote holiness of life, should be kept constantly in view; and whatever is beautiful in art should ever be subordinated to this design. “When the beautiful becomes, or tends to become, supreme in worship and in Christian art, then it becomes unlawful. Whenever this principle is infringed, an intense desire to reform is apt to develop itself into a reckless, iconoclastic spirit. The men who denuded and dismantled the churches in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries regarded ornaments as snares to the conscience, and as the foster-nurses of superstition. Religion admits of no rival: she must be supreme, and all the meretricious graces of art must be subservient to her sway, and minister to her high and beneficent purpose. Art is one of the noblest and best gifts which God has bestowed on man; therefore, above all, it should be applied to the glorification of God, and not merely to the sanctification and pleasure of the world. To scorn and reject art in the service of religion is to reject Him who has given it. The aesthetics of the Christian life must not be permitted to mar or displace its spiritual power.
1. The best talent should be employed for God.
2. A genuine Christian life is adorned with the beauty of many virtues.
3. Art without religion is idolatry and sin.
HOMILETICS OF 1 Kings 7:22
While, for convenience sake, this is called Solomon’s Temple, it is much more David’s; but in the highest sense it is God’s—God’s thought, which He put into the soul of David, and fed by His holy aspirations and musings. And about this divinely-suggested Temple, with all its several items of grandeur and device, there is nothing more distinctly characteristic than the idea which gleams forth from this description of the pillars built by Hiram—“Upon the top of the pillars was lily work;” an illustration, moreover, of that work, also David’s, into which he threw his thought, not only about the material Temple, but about all Divine realities—“Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” The pillars, how massively grand, towering, and sublime, yet fretted over and crowned with gracefulness! Even “lily work” of choicest artifice.
I. As we look at these pillars, we cannot fail to remember that the man who built them threw his soul into them. And his soul was inspired to do the best his hands could. How immensely it would relieve the drudgery of manual occupation if our workers were to feel that their true work was an inspiration—that the thought of it, and the power to do it, were alike from God, and that they were doing it for God? Would not this make them, also, do their daily duty as indeed for God? In that Temple all was to be good and sound. Men felt it was all for God, and so they put their souls into it. The one thought seemed to be, How shall we most fitly express our sense of the Divine worth? And to an age largely impressed by material signs and symbols this was a testimony of some value. It was looked upon as a Divine gift to have a faculty for skilful workmanship. In these days it is to be feared that our loose thought about what constitutes the soul of religion has led to some disparagement of these so-called natural gifts. It needs to be told with much plainness to the so-called Christian people of this day, that they are not honouring God if, however dovout and prayerful, they neglect their proper every-day work. To serve God is not simply to be rapt by religious emotions. He who makes a boot, or drives a nail, or executes a design skilfully, may do it religiously. And we might say to the workers, It is to be feared that we of the pulpit sometimes needlessly disparage your toil, and make it harder than needs be, because we do not sufficiently allow that a true glory rests about all honest, well-wrought toil. The true sanctification of labour will never be attained until we allow that a good work may be as truly wrought by painstaking and skill in the commonest engagements. We must do our best, because we are doing it for our Lord. Christ takes note of all conscientious, painstaking endeavour, and whatever is well done, conscientiously done, is done for Him. Believing that in the simple work-a-day matters of conscientiousness and painstaking about our daily calling it is within our power to please or grieve Him, let us give Him our best.
II. Following closely upon this is a thought about the soundness and honesty of service in God’s Spiritual Temple. All work that is worth doing at all is worth doing well. If a man has to give, let him give cheerfully, for God loveth a cheerful giver. If he has to teach, let him give himself in the teaching; if he has to rule a household, let him do so with diligence. Let his service be not by constraint, but willingly. A cup of cold water is not unacceptable, but meat may sometimes be more serviceable, therefore more acceptable. A prayer for the troubled is good, but a suffering patience is better. This high, grand principle would effectually rectify at least some of the wrongness of the Christian church. Well doing is in doing one’s best. A really spiritual endeavour is an endeavour in which the spirit of a man shows itself, as in a good painting a man’s soul peers through the canvas. Whether, therefore, in one’s own soulculture, or in the culture of spiritual life in others, we should not present a maimed sacrifice, when we ought to and can offer an unblemished one. Let all our works be done in truth. Let them bear the inspection of the eye of Heaven. However laborious, let them be finished; if pillars, let the top be chased with “lily-work.”
III. But passing away from these general thoughts suggested by the scene of these varied works in the Temple, let us come to another. If upon the top of Hiram’s pillars was “lily-work,” so majesty, crowned with gracefulness, will be found in all the Divinest thoughts. Religion is one of these Divine thoughts. Revelation is to provoke religious life; and in religious life there is strength as well as beauty, beauty as well as strength. “Upon the top of its pillar is lily-work.” In “Theophilus Trinal” the words are applied to the frame of Nature, thus:—“How mighty and massive is Nature’s frame! Strong are the world’s pillars! Yet what profusion of things graceful, even sportively graceful, does the earth contain! Beautiful is the ‘lily-work.’ ” This great Temple—the world is like that old Temple—the wonder of Solomon’s heart and time. “Upon the top of the piliars is lily-work.” In all God’s works will be found a perfect harmoniousness; so there is as truly in the sphere of the spiritual within man the same blending of the strong with the beautiful. The massiveness of the religious principle which it takes time to establish and to build up is adorned with many a grace, and crowned with many a flower-picture.
IV. The pillars must be before the florid ornamentation. That which is essentially Divine must have elements of strength and stability. The force which is to control a man’s inner and outer being must—being a Divine force—be an overcoming one. There is muscle and sinew and bone in all healthily embodied life. It must be able to resist and assert itself. Moral cowardice, e.g., cannot co-exist with a healthy spiritual life; hence the repeated exhortations in Scripture to “be strong,” to “be very courageous.” The muscular school of Christianity, as it is called, has done some good if it has only helped to explode the notion that religion is an effeminate thing; but it has not always chosen the best modes of exemplifying its principles.
Strong are the pillars of God’s spiritual temple, deeply laid the foundations, in force of principle, in power of life. Pity the man who is wanting in these, whose religion is sentiment and nothing more. Presently some blast will tear up the roots of such a life, and lay the lifeless trunk bare to the scorn of all beholders. But beauty is also in God’s sanctuary, and “upon the top of the pillars was lily work”—one of its simplest illustrations. Nature in this respect furnishes us a series of types. Her vegetation which clothes those rugged peaks, climbing ever where it can to adorn and beautify, tells of some thought of God, to be applied to spiritual ideas. To the devout, all such contemplation of the works of God will result in an ever-deepening conviction that while God loves the strong, He also loves the graceful. Similarly, out of the settled, rock-like principles of religious faith spring many a beautiful plant of grace.
Attention to the minor moralities, the tender, graceful offices of Christian gentleness, is no unimportant phase of the sweetness of goodness. It is our joy when we can trace all things of worth to the Saviour; and, having taken the text from which to teach of the strength and beauty which God loves, we would turn with profound respect and gratitude to the Saviour of men as the source of all that is enduringly grand and vitally beautiful. Consider Christ—how settled and stable are the grand principles upon which His religion is founded! What strength you have in the elementary principles of the Christian religion! Yet what beauty! As in His life, so also in the life that is nurtured by faith in Him, you will find force and fragrance—whatever can give sustenance to the more heroic virtues; whatever can give nurture to the gentler graces. The pictures representing the Saviour mostly err in the direction of effeminacy. So also Renan’s word-picture of Him is an exaggeration in this direction. And we are all apt, knowing how much of sweetness was in his nature, to forget the ruggeder virtues which dwelt within His manly breast. But we have only to come to the cross to get these effeminate notions corrected. He could “even dare to die,”—of such stalwart sort was His inner soul, and yet even from that cross could turn a look of pitying love toward the weeping woman by it, and say to John, “Behold thy mother.”
And as in the human life and story of Christ, so also in the manifestations of Christ ever since; what brave endurance, what meek patience, have been seen! Strength, manly and courageous; beauty, touching, pathetic, graceful. Think of those pillars in Solomon’s Temple—beautiful in their grandeur: they represent a true religious life—massive, towering, sublime; yet crowned with the graceful, wrought upon the top in “lily work.” You are firm and true to principle: do not think you need be rude and ungainly. Let the “beauty of holiness” beam forth from you. Let not the sacredness of your life ever be forbidding—shine forth! Though possessed of the enduring vitalities of the hidden life, be also clothed in the comely garment of the Christian graces.
1stly. You, especially, who are seeking for something abiding—who yearn to be in your true place, a place not to be changed—you must overcome. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the Temple of my God.” Have you overcome self-will, passion, worldly expediency? There is earnest work before you before this hope of heaven can be your enjoyment. In the strength of God and of his dear Son you will find the victory.
2ndly. You who love the beautiful—where are you looking for it? You find much baseness, lowness in yourself—in society. Look for it in Christ, and in that which springs from the acceptance of His service and yoke. “Come unto Me,” all ye sons and daughters of pleasure, wearied with much seeking and never finding. “Come unto Me,” all searchers after true consolation and joy: “I will give you rest.”—C. W. P.
THE SYMBOLIC TEACHING OF THE TEMPLE
WHEN the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews states that “the Law had a shadow of good things to come,” he does not undertake to show that the several institutions and ceremonies of that legal period have their exact counterparts, in every particular, in the institutions of Christian times. Shadows are very indefinite and insubstantial things, erratic and uncertain in their movements, so that it is only with great difficulty and much patient observation that we can succeed in defining the substance they so dimly forecast. The symbolic character of the Levitical ritual has been often exaggerated. Old Testament persons and places, sacred seasons and sacred things, down even to the very snuffers and tongs of the sanctuary, have been strained into meanings the most fantastic, and have afforded scope for the play of the most fanciful imagination. But while the typical and figurative teaching of the Bible is liable to be abused, it has ever been, and still is, a valuable and impressive medium of conveying the knowledge of the most important truths, especially if one of the fundamental rules of allegorical interpretation be observed—that which necessitates the rejection of everything inconsistent with the particular truth it is intended to unfold and illustrate. The Temple of Solomon, so far as it was a reproduction (on an enlarged scale) of the Tabernacle, was, like that more ancient structure, the pattern, example, and shadow of heavenly things. But Solomon introduced a number of additions to the ancient pattern shown to Moses in the Mount. The side-chambers, the colossal cherubim, the molten sea on twelve oxen in place of the more simple laver of the tabernacle court, the ten smaller lavers and their bases, the ten tables and the ten golden candlesticks—all seem to have been the product and expression of theocratic ideas that had been maturing in the Israelitish mind for more than four hundred years, though many of them were probably demanded by the more extensive and elaborate service of Solomon’s time. The symbolic meaning of various parts of the Temple are worthy of consideration.
I. The Temple, as the dwelling place of Jehovah, localised the manifestation of His presence and power. Though Solomon was well aware “the heaven and heaven of heavens” could not contain the God of Israel, yet he built the Temple with the declared purpose of providing a house for Jehovah to dwell in—a settled place for His abode (1 Kings 8:3). He could, therefore, have entertained no such thought as that by dwelling in the Temple God ceased to be omnipresent; but the Temple was specifically the place where Jehovah recorded His name, and therefore the visible sign and pledge of His covenant with Israel. It was the abode of His holiness, the place where He was to be consulted and understood by His people—the place of vision and of glorious manifestation and blessing.
II. The Temple was symbolic of Heaven. While the Temple was specifically the dwelling place of Jehovah, it also typified heaven itself, which the Apostle designates “the true Tabernacle” (Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:24). Accordingly, in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication we find a continued contrast between “this house,” or “this place,” and “heaven, Thy dwelling place,” or simply “heaven” (chap. 1 Kings 8:30-49). And so the pious Israelite might ever see in the holy and beautiful house where Jehovah recorded His name a type and symbol of heaven itself. It was the Temple of His holiness (Psalms 5:7; Psalms 79:1; Psalms 138:2).
III. The Temple indicated the close relationship existing between God and man. This divine human relationship was symbolised in the two main apartments of the Temple. Why, in the Temple as in the Tabernacle, have two holy rooms, rather than three or more? Why, except to express the twofold relation that essentially exists between the worshipper and God? The holy of holies, with its profound symbols of “Mercy covering wrath,” showed God’s relation to His people; how, and on what terms, the Almighty and Holy One would dwell with man. The holy place, where the consecrated priests ministered, with its incense, altar, and tables and candlesticks, expressed the relation of the true worshipper to God. The devout worshippers, who offer before God the incense of continual prayer, are at once the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And this is the one great truth embodied in the several symbols of the holy place. Thus, in the two main apartments, were exhibited “the two great branches into which the tree of Divine knowledge always of necessity runs—namely, the things to be believed concerning God, and the things to be done by His believing people.”
IV. The Temple symbolised the gradual revelation of the Divine Holiness. When we come to observe the details of the structure we notice, first of all, the graduated sanctity of the three holy places. First, the court, where nothing unclean might enter; then the holy place, where only the consecrated priests might go to perform holy services; and, beyond this, vailed in thick darkness, the holy of holies, where only the high priest entered (and he but once a year) on the great day of atonement. Here was symbolised, not only the absolute holiness of Him who “dwelt in the thick darkness,” but also the gradual and progressive revelations of His name and Nature, which have been made known to men. Whilst the Temple and the priesthood remained, the Holy Ghost signified that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest (Hebrews 9:8); but since Christ has rent the vail and entered heaven itself for us, we all may, with boldness and full assurance of faith, enter into the holiest, and have everlasting fellowship and communion with God (Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:19-22).
V. The square form of all the apartments and courts of the Temple is not without significance. The oracle was a perfect square, the nave a double square, the porch half a square, &c. Nowhere do we find the form of the triangle, the pentagon, or the circle; but everything about the sanctuary seems, like the heavenly Jerusalem, to be quadrangular, as if to correspond with the four corners of heaven, the upper dwelling place of God (Jeremiah 49:36; Matthew 24:31).
VI. The Temple also had a symbolism of members. Especially noticeable is the predominance of the numbers ten and three. The length and breadth of all the apartments and the courts is a common multiple of ten—the number of the commandments written on the Tables of Testimony within the Ark. Ten is the number of the candlesticks and tables, the bases and the lavers; ten cubits was the height of the cherubim and the extent of their outstretched wings; ten cubits was the breadth of the molten sea. Then we note the three holy apartments, each with its type of expiation—the altar of burnt offerings, the altar of incense, and the mercy seat; the last within the most holy place, which bore the form of a perfect cube, the length and the breadth and the height of it being equal. Each apartment also had three principal kinds of articles of furniture. In the oracle were the cherubim, the ark, and the tables of the Law; in the nave were the candlesticks, the tables, and the altar of incense; and in the court were the brazen sea, the lavers, and the altar of burnt offerings. There were also the three stories of side-chambers. In this symbolism of numbers we may discern a mystic representation both of the variety and unity of all Divine revelation. “What happens thrice is the genuine once; what is divided into three is a true unity. The one dwelling, by its division into three parts, is designated as one complete whole; and the three kinds of articles of use which are in the three parts, or in one of them, again form a complete whole, and belong under it to the one or the other relation. While the number (ten) gives the impress of finishing and completing to multiplicity, the number (three) is the signature of perfect unity, and thus also of the Divine Being.”
VII. The decorations of the Temple symbolised the Divine source of all forms of life. The cherubim, lions, oxen, palms, flowers, and lily work were representative of all created life, and signified that, while Jehovah condescended to make the Temple His special dwelling place, His presence fills the universe with life. He upholds all things by the Word of His power. Angels and men, cattle and creeping things and fowl, and all inanimate creation, have their being from Him whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. And thus was added to the various lessons of Jehovah’s absolute holiness and infinite perfections, which the Temple symbolised, this ornamental expression of His universal providence (see Bahr on “The Symbolism of the Mosaic Worship”: Whedon’s Comm., and Lange).
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
1 Kings 7:1-51. In matter: all was here of the best. The wood was precious, sweet, lasting; the stones beautiful, costly, insensible of age; the gold pure and glittering. So are the graces of God’s children excellent in their nature, dear in their acceptation, eternal in their use: so are the ordinances of God in His church holy, comfortable, irrefragable: so is the perfection of His glorified saints incomparable, unconceivable. In situation: the outer parts were here more common; the inner more holy and peculiarly reserved. One court of the temple is open to the unclean, to the uncircumcised: within that another, open only to the Israelites, and, of them, to the clean: within that yet another, proper only to the priests and Levites, where was the brazen altar for sacrifice, and the brazen sea for washing. The eyes of the laity might follow their oblations in hither; their feet might not. Yet more, in the covered rooms of the Temple there is, whither the priests only may enter, not the Levites; there is, whither the high priest only may enter, not his brethren. It is thus in every renewed man, the individual temple of God: the outer parts are allowed common to God and the world; the inwardest and secretest, which is the heart, is reserved only for the God that made it. It is thus in the church visible: the false and foul-hearted hypocrite hath access to the holy ordinances of God, and treads in His courts: only the true Christian hath entire and private conversation with the Holy One of Israel, he only is admitted into the Holy of Holies, and enters within the glorious vail of heaven.—Bp. Hall.
1 Kings 7:1-12. They who are great may appear so; it is as fit that a king should dwell in a palace, as a peasant in a cottage. They who are occupied in building should take care not to lose, in the stone and mortar, their solicitude to secure a better “house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
—The building of the house for the king followed immediately upon the building of the temple: they belong together. Altar and throne stand and fall together, even as we have the two commandments: Fear God: Honour the king (1 Peter 2:17; Proverbs 24:2). In the kingdom where religion is cherished and highly honoured there royalty is most secure: a God-fearing people is the best, nay, the only support of the throne.—Lange.
1 Kings 7:13. As the tabernacle was built with the wealth of Egypt, so the temple with the wit of Tyre: God will serve himself by the common gifts of men.
1 Kings 7:13-14. A wise prince, in the furtherance of his enterprise, which aims at the honour of God and the good of the nation, looks around for the best instruments, and in order to obtain them seeks them wherever he can find them (Proverbs 26:10). He who has learned anything thoroughly, and brought it to perfection in its especial province, must be sought out and held in esteem, whatsoever be his position or country.
1 Kings 7:15-22. The pillars of Hiram emblematic of the church of God.
1. As to its stability. The names given to the pillars are suggestive. Jachin: He will establish, referring to the fact that Jehovah’s dwelling place, hitherto movable and moving, was now firmly fixed in the midst of His people. Boaz: In him is strength, indicating the strength and power that would be put forth by God in the defence and establishment of His people. The church is stable—
1. Because it is founded in truth;
2. Built up in truth; and
3. Sustained and encompassed by the God of truth. II. As to its beauty. The pillars were surmounted with ornamental capitals, shaped like a full-blown lily-cup, with fine checkered network thrown over the whole, and delicate chain work hanging in festoons outside, and decorated with circling rows of pomegranate. The church is adorned—1, with the graces of the Holy Spirit; 2, with the beauty of holiness; 3, with the reflected glory of its risen and glorified head (2 Corinthians 3:18). III. As to its eventful history. These famous pillars were broken in pieces by the Babylonians when they destroyed Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:13; Jeremiah 52:17). But the material remained and retained its value. So the church has often been persecuted, pierced, and broken by the violence of its foes, and often brought disaster on itself by its unfaithfulness to God; but it has not been utterly destroyed. It retains its vigour, and is ever increasing in value and preciousness.
1 Kings 7:18. The pomegranate was one of the commonest ornaments in Assyria. It was used on quivers, on spear-shafts and mace-heads, in patterns on doorways and pavements. It is doubtful whether a symbolical meaning attached to it, or whether it was merely selected as a beautiful natural form.—Rawlinson.
1 Kings 7:22. The Hebrew named the lily simply “the white”; it is, therefore, a natural symbol of purity. The priests, as “the holy ones” (Exodus 3:5), were dressed in white (Numbers 16:7); and the high priest, the holiest of the holy, wore on the great day of atonement white garments instead of his usual many coloured ones; and these white robes were called “holy garments (Leviticus 16:4; Leviticus 16:32). Inasmuch as holiness was the characteristic and fundamental idea of the Israelitish religion, “the white” (i.e., the lily) seems to have been their religious flower, as the lotus was the well-known sacred flower of the Indian and Egyptian religions. Besides this, the lily is nowhere more indigenous than in Palestine (Matthew 6:28); and it may therefore be named the flower of the Promised Land, as the palm was its tree. If the capitals of the pillars were thus always and everywhere decorated with carvings of flowers, no more characteristic and suitable one could be chosen for the capitals before the holy temple than the lily.—Lange.
—“And upon the pillars was lily-work.” To show the beauty and sweetness of Christ and His people, those especially that are more eminent, the glory of the churches; such as were James, Cephas, and John, who “seemed to be pillars” (Galatians 2:9).
1 Kings 7:23. As a large laver for the priests to wash in (2 Chronicles 4:6). The Hebrews used to call the gathering together of much water a sea. It signifieth both the exceeding filthiness of sin, requiring a sea for the cleansing of it, and the infinite virtue of Christ’s blood.—Trapp.
1 Kings 7:37. “All of them had one casting.” To teach the uniformity about things of God. It is a sweet thing when with one mind and one mouth God is glorified as “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6), and men’s prayers come before Him “as the sound of many waters.”
1 Kings 7:40-51. What signification have the holy vessels of the temple for the church of the Lord, which is the true temple of God?
1. The pillars, Jachin and Boaz, in the porch, are, as it were, the superscription over the temple, and declare its strong foundation and its permanence. The Lord declares both to His people church: upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Great, noble promise! II. The brazen sea and the vases in the porch are there, that the priests may purify themselves and the sacrifices which they bring there. The church of the Lord is that holy priesthood which offers spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5). Those who wish to perform such service the prophet summons: Wash ye (Isaiah 1:16); and the apostle: I beseech you, &c. (Romans 12:1). III. The altar, the candlesticks, and the table stand in the building itself, which is a type of heaven, and show that for them who offer themselves pure and holy sacrifices, a divine light and life are prepared before the throne of God, and no other sacrifice is rendered except the incense of prayer, of praise, and worship of God (Psalms 16:11; Revelation 5:8-14).—Lange.
—If, from the walls, we look into the furniture: what is the altar, whereon our sacrifices of prayer and praises are offered to the Almighty, but a contrite heart? What is the golden candlestick, but the illumined understanding, wherein the light of the knowledge of God and His divine will shineth for ever? What the tables of shew-broad, but the sanctified memory, which keepeth the bread of life continually? Yea, if we shall presume so far as to enter into the very closest of God’s oracle, even there, O God! do we find our unworthy hearts so honoured by thee, that they are made thy very ark, wherein thy royal law and thy pot of thy heavenly manna are kept for ever; and from whose propitiatory, shaded with the wings of thy glorious angels, thou givest the gracious testimonials of thy good Spirit, witnessing with ours that we are the children of the living God.—Bp. Hall.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany