CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter, parallel with 1Ki ; 1Ki 9:9, records acceptance of consecrated temple by fire (2Ch 7:1-10); and answer given by the Lord to Solomon (2Ch 7:11-22).
2Ch .—Acceptance of temple by fire. This not mentioned in Kings, which creates difficulty. "What it is important to bear in mind is—
1. That omissions are not contradictions; and
2. That they occur constantly in all historical writers, and are frequently quite unaccountable" [Speak. Com.]. Fire as in tabernacle (Lev ); glory, chapter 2Ch 5:13-14. 2Ch 7:3. Bowed in adoration and reverence. 2Ch 7:4. All people did not offer, but gave them to be offered on altar. Sacrifices enormous and difficult to realise. 2Ch 7:6. Waited in their stations to receive, kill sacrifices, &c. Instruments, cymbals, harps, and psalteries (1Ch 15:16; compare chap. 2Ch 5:12). 2Ch 7:7. Middle court on account of blood of sacrifices and burning of fat. 2Ch 7:8. Feast, not feast of dedication only, but feast of tabernacles also (Lev 23:34). Hamath to river Sihor, which separated Egypt from Palestine. "The territory of Israel, according to its whole extent from north to south" (2Ch 7:8) [Keil]. 2Ch 7:9. Solemn assembly closed the festival. Kept dedication seven days and feast of tabernacle next seven days (1Ki 8:65). Festival closed on 22nd of the month, on 23rd people sent home rejoicing.
2Ch .—God's answer to Solomon's prayer. "The narrative now runs parallel with 1Ki 9:1-9, but is fuller and presents less of verbal agreement. 2Ch 7:13-15 are additional to the earlier record" [Speak. Com.]. King's house, i.e., his own palace (cf. 1Ki 7:1-12). 2Ch 7:12-22. Explicit answer to Solomon. Appeared as at Gibeon (1Ki 3:5; 1Ki 9:2). 2Ch 7:13. If, &c., answer to third petition (2Ch 6:26). 2Ch 7:14 recalls chief points in Solomon's prayer. 2Ch 7:15. Attent, promise accords with very words of petition (cf. 2Ch 6:40). Prayer of this place (marg.) "chosen to include the two cases of prayers offered in (2Ch 6:24) and towards (2Ch 6:34-38) the sanctuary" [Speak. Com.]. 2Ch 7:16. Sanctified. "Here additions to 1 Kings 9, end and remainder of chapter adds nothing to the earlier record." 2Ch 7:17. Walk refers to first petition; conditions which Solomon failed to meet. 2Ch 7:19. The other alternative put before Solomon. 2Ch 7:21. This house high, conspicuous in glory. Astonishment in ruin. 2Ch 7:22. All this the fearful consequences of apostasy (cf. Ezekiel's wailing over the city and temple, Eze 14:23; 2Ch 36:17-20).
THE FIRE AND THE GLORY.—2Ch
Two elements prominent in O.T. symbolism which made the dedication solemn, impressive, and real.
I. As confirmation of acceptance. Sacrifice accompanied every act of worship. Miraculous fire a sign of acceptance, as Moses (Lev ), Gideon (Jud 6:21), David (1Ch 21:26), Elijah (1Ki 18:38). Generally to accept burnt sacrifice in Hebrew was to turn to ashes. "Remember all thy offerings, and accept (turn to ashes or make fat) thy burnt sacrifice" (Psa 20:3). The surest evidence of acceptance in prayer is the descent of the holy fire upon us. This fills the heart with reverence and awe, as the glory filled the temple. This leads to humble submission to divine authority, and a true sense of unworthiness. "They bowed themselves," with profound reverence and humility.
II. As symbols of spiritual truths. The fire indicative of God's nature. "Our God is a consuming fire," terrible in Zion, before whom sinners have reason to fear. But God consumed the sacrifices, not the offerers; turned away his anger, and showed mercy in their acceptance. Christ a great sacrifice for sin, through whom Holy Spirit given to apply the word, consume sin, and convert the soul. The glory fills earthly temples, when his presence dwells in the sanctuary, and the heart is made a living temple—when Israelites rise from their prostrate attitude, regain their confidence, and offer themselves as sacrifices upon the altar of God—when hearts are tuned, and songs abound to God. "For he is good, and his mercy endureth for ever."
THE DEDICATED TEMPLE.—2Ch
Dean Milman's description most truthful and graphic ("History of the Jews," vol. i., pp. 315-318). Here two glances at the scene, showing its outward grandeur and inward importance.
I. The eternal grandeur of the event. The vast assembly, "all Israel" present. The enormous sacrifices, on a scale suitable to the extraordinary occasion, requiring the open court, in which the assembly only could take part. The preparation and offering of burnt offerings and peace offerings in festive joy. All—king, priests, and people—performing their part. The fall of the sacred fire, and the dazzling glory of the cloud resting on and then entering into the courts. The music and the oft-recurring chorus (Psalms 136). The awe-struck priests and the nation on their knees would be an impressive sight. But notice—
II. The moral significance of the event. This ceremonial was not commanded by the law, but the expression of devout sentiment and reverence in the people. The symbolic presence led the innumerable multitudes to prostrate themselves on the ground, the instinctive and natural expression of loving reverence. The prostrate person and the bended knee tokens of humility, unreserved surrender, and dutiful obedience. "O come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." The consuming fire fills with dread. "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?" Judgments alarm, glory without mercy leads to despair, but God accepts the sacrifice, and spares the offerer. "Which was the greater, the external magnificence or the moral sublimity of the scene?'" asks Milman. "Was it the temple situated on its commanding eminence, with all its courts, the dazzling splendour of its materials, the innumerable multitudes, the priests in their gorgeous attire, the king with all the insignia of royalty on his throne of burnished brass, the music, the radiant cloud filling the temple, the sudden fire flashing upon the altar, the whole nation upon their knees? Was it not rather the religious grandeur of the hymns and of the prayer; the exalted and rational views of the Divine Nature; the union of a whole people in the adoration of the one Great. Incomprehensible, Almighty, Everlasting Creator?"
I. Sacrifice in its symbolic meaning. Refined nations of modern times esteem animal sacrifices a cruel and uncultured mode of expressing religious sentiments. But remembering the genius, habits, and moral instincts of ancient nations, and the special circumstances of the Jewish people, we see their fitness and propriety. Use of letters unknown, signs and symbols needful and beneficial. God instructs, helps, and encourages in this rite. Its value, therefore, partly actual, and partly typical, but in all respects derived from the one true sacrifice typified.
II. Sacrifice a form of true religion. Opposed to heathen will-worship in place, method, and in the invention of costly and monstrous offerings. An evidence of obedience to God; a symbol of self-dedication, and an expression of thanksgiving. Some form of sacrifice always required in religion. He who offers nothing accounted irreligious (Ecc, cf. Isa 43:23). We must not forget the higher affections of the heart in over-valuing the symbol, and turn our offerings into an opus operatum. "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."
III. Sacrifice a method of national festivity. Festivals held in all ancient nations. Sacrificial meals common and under special direction in Israel. Sometimes in private houses, other times in the temple. Held weekly, monthly, and yearly. These methods not only commemorations of great national events, but occasions for reunion of friends, enjoyment of hospitality, and interchange of sentiment. Families would be filled with joy. Strangers, fatherless and widows received with religious warmth. The nation bound in unity, commerce, and brotherhood.
The time of dedication immediately before the feast of tabernacles. The festival prolonged, and afforded opportunity for large number of peace offerings, which were the means of national enjoyment.
I. Joy in its purest sources.
1. In Divine works. "Solomon finished the house." Joy from contemplation of the order, beauty, splendour, and completion of temple. Its vast extent, manifold adaptations, practical use, and symbolic teaching. "I will triumph in the works of Thy hands."
2. In the Divine presence. Infinite and supreme, yet will dwell with man! In the vision and service of God we find the bliss of heaven. "We joy in God."
3. In acceptance in the Divine presence. God with man, not to judge, condemn, and destroy. "We shall surely die, because we have seen God," was the impression of Manoah. A popular belief that the revelation of God's terrible majesty would cause death, not joy. But the acceptance of the offerings a pledge of gracious disposition (Jud ). The cloud and the fire at dedication of temple tokens of condescension and mercy.
II. Joy in its vast extent.
1. In all classes. Universal joy. King, priests, and people partook of it. "All Israel with him, a very great congregation" (2Ch ).
2. In all places. In the palace of the king, and the tents of the people. In the temple of Jehovah, and the homes of the land, "from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt," the usual and known bounds, the utmost length of the land. "He sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart," thanking God for his goodness to David, to Solomon, a wise and religious son, and "to Israel his people." In this spirit we should go home from God's house; rejoice in the grace, advancement, and enthronement of the Redeemer, and in the sanctification and spiritual welfare of all believers.
GOD'S ANSWERS TO SOLOMON'S PRAYER.—2Ch
Acceptance of prayer seen in fire from heaven, and second appearance by night.
I. Answers to special prayers. Solomon not aimless and indefinite, but specific. To prayer suggested by Holy Spirit, and offered according to God's will, answers are definite and explicit. 2Ch contain answer to third petition, 2Ch 7:16 to second, and 2Ch 7:17-22 to first.
II. Answers exceeding the prayer itself. Solomon desired that God's eyes might be directed to the temple continually (ch. 2Ch ). The answer is, "Not mine eyes only, but mine eyes and mine heart." Not only to Solomon's, but to prayer made toward that place in future from any person; not to the thoughts merely, but in the very words of the petitioner. We are straitened in ourselves, not in God, "who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
III. Answers conditionally promised. Suspended on conduct. This a test of faith, a motive to obedience, and a rule of discipline. "If ye walk in my statutes … then I will give you, &c. But if ye will not hearken unto me … I will set my face against you" (Lev ).
"The record of this second vision, in which were rehearsed the conditions of God's covenant with Solomon, and the consequences of breaking them, is inserted as a proper introduction to the narrative about to be given of the king's commercial enterprises, and ambitious desire for worldly glory. For this king, by encouraging an influx of foreign people, and a taste for foreign luxuries, rapidly corrupted his own mind and those of his subjects, that they turned from following God, they and their children" [Jamieson].
I. God's goodness in warning before punishment. God not revengeful and unjust. Judgment strange to Him. He gives space for repentance, opportunity to avoid danger; thus declares reluctance to punish, and goodness to warn. Longsuffering of God signally displayed. "Because sentence is not executed speedily," men should not resolve on sinful courses, and run to ruin.
II. Disobedience to warning exposes to punishment. Sentence is gone forth, judgment only suspended, and seems to loiter, hence the sinner thinks there is chance of escape. "I shall have peace, though I walk in the way of my own heart." But warnings unheeded, calls neglected, hasten the stroke, and render the judgments heavier. Abuse of mercy only ripens for judgment. "He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
III. Punishment which follows abused warning is merited and most severe. A limit to discipline and patience. The time ends and the day of retribution comes. Ruin often sudden and without remedy.
1. The temple cursed. The house conspicuous for its sanctity, glory and usefulness, would become a desolation, a byword, and disgrace.
2. The nation cursed. "Plucked up," carried away, and exposed to mockery, insult, and despair in a foreign land. The temple of God no protection to those who forsake him. Their sins will be read in the judgments they suffer. Seek to be a monument of grace, not of judgment.
"Heaven gives the needful but neglected call.
What day, what hour, but knocks at human hearts,
To wake the soul to a sense of future scenes" [Young].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2Ch ; 2Ch 7:15-16. The Consecrated House. Solomon builder, God consecrated, sanctified it.
1. By the symbolic cloud and sacred fire.
2. By his special care. "My eyes shall be open, &c." (2Ch ).
3. By his constant affection. "Mine heart shall be there perpetually."
2Ch . The sum, the greatness, and the completion of Solomon's works—sacred, voluntary, and successful works. "The house of the Lord was seven years in building. But the court, the pillars, and all the external and internal fittings began to be constructed probably after the building was finished. The builders who were released from the work of the Lord's house were free to betake themselves to the erection of the royal palace and other public buildings. At the end of thirteen years (1Ki 7:1) the temple finishings and requisites were all completed, and everything was ready for the consecration" [Murphy].
"In the early days of art,
Builders wrought with greatest care,
Each minute and unseen part;
For the gods see everywhere.
"Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where God may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean"
2Ch . An house of sacrifice.
1. In contrast with the synagogue, in which no sacrifice.
2. Descriptive of worship of O.T. with its symbolic rites, social feasts, and moral teaching. "This expression does not elsewhere occur. Its meaning, however, is clear. God declares that Solomon's temple is the place which he had promised to ‘choose' from among the tribes of Israel, whereto all Israelites were commanded to bring their burnt offerings and sacrifices" (see Deu ) [Speak. Com.]. The Lord appeared. This vision presents a remarkable contrast with that recorded (1Ki 6:11-13) while the temple was in building. Then all was promise and encouragement; now, not only is warning mingled with promise, but as in Solomon's own prayer, the sadder alternative seems in prophetic anticipation to overpower the brighter. In this there is (as often remarked) a striking exemplification of the austere and lofty candour of the inspired narrative, sternly contradicting that natural hopefulness in the hour of unexampled prosperity, which would have shrunk from even entertaining the idea that the blessing of God on the temple should be frustrated, and the glory of Israel pass away [Ellicott, O.T. Com.].
2Ch . Biblical Anthropomorphism. Human organs. The eyes and ears of God. This language is used for two purposes. I. To express His cognisance of man. He knows us.
2. Thoroughly. II. To express His interest in man.
1. In the various capacities of enjoyment with which He has endowed us, and the provision He made for them.
2. In the preservation of our existence, notwithstanding our sinfulness.
3. In our redemption by Christ Jesus. Conclusion: Thou God seest me, we unite with the blessed fact, "Thou God lovest me" [Bib. Mus.]. My name there for ever. God's gifts are "without repentance." When he puts his name in the temple he does it, in intention, for ever. He will not arbitrarily withdraw it after so many years, or so many centuries. Once placed there, it will remain there for ever, so far as God is concerned. But the people may by unfaithfulness drive it away [Speak. Com.].
2Ch . Turn away.
1. Possibility of wrong course. "If ye turn away."
2. Rapid progress when this course is adopted. "Forsake my statutes," easily understood and profitable to them, "set before you." Wholly forsake God for idols, then—
3. Fearful consequences. Entire deflection would cut Israel off from the land. "This whole passage stands out in bold relief, when illuminated by the light of history" [Murphy].
2Ch . Plucked up.
1. The soil in which they were planted, chosen and prepared by the Great Husbandman.
2. The source of their growth and fruit. "From me is thy fruit found."
3. The danger to which they were exposed. "Plucked up." No growth independent of God. Plants require rain, light, and warmth. We can only live as we live and are rooted in God. "There would be men who are twice dead, plucked up by the roots, and the roots are only fit for burning. We do not know what God's burning means. Let us take care how we exclude the penal element from our theology and from our contemplation of the future" [Dr. Parker]. Learn—
1. The evil of apostasy.
2. The reality of God's government.
3. The terrible effects of Divine displeasure.
2Ch . Why thus? A Problem.
1. The actual fact in history, that the Jews, the anciently favoured people of God, found to this day a byword and a proverb.
2. The question is, why hath the Lord done this? Has God changed his purpose, or been unfaithful to his word? The problem solved by the conduct of the people who forsook God and rejected the Saviour. "It is notable, that in its reference to the two parts of the promise of David there is a subtle and instructive distinction. As for the temple now just built in fulfilment of that promise, it is declared without reserve that in the case of unfaithfulness in Israel, it shall be utterly destroyed, and become an astonishment and a proverb of reproach before the world. But, in respect of the promise of the perpetuity of David's kingdom, the true Messianic prediction, which struck the key-note of all future prophecies, it is only said that Israel shall be ‘cut off from the land,' and so ‘become a proverb and a byword' in captivity. Nothing is said to contradict the original declaration that even in case of sin the mercy of God would chastise and not forsake the house of David (2Sa ; Psa 78:30-37). So again and again in prophecy captivity is denounced as a penalty of Israel's sin, but the hope of restoration is always held out, and thus the belief in God's unchanging promise remains unshaken. The true idea is strikingly illustrated by the prophet Amos (2Ch 9:9-11): I will sift the house of Israel among all nations.… Yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.… I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, &c." [Ellicott, O.T. Com.].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 7
2Ch . Sacrifices. Profusion the usual feature of ancient sacrifices: 300 oxen formed a common sacrifice at Athens. But all sacrifices offered by men to God are inadequate. "Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering." "Jehovah being so much greater than man, how can any sacrificial rites be worthy of Him?" [Cheyne.] "What real propitiation could be effected, though the whole region of Lebanon were made an altar, its pines and cedars piled up on it for firing, and its thousands of beasts offered as victims? Very different was the offering which was to procure man's redemption" [Kay]. That offering which alone avails before God is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, a sacrifice of infinite value because He is God. All our offerings, our acts of worship, our self-denial, our good deeds cannot in themselves avail with God. But they are accepted when offered upon "the altar which sanctifieth the gift," the altar of Christ's merits.
2Ch . Feasts. All bodily appetites should be attended to for purposes of relief, not gratification. The very moment we seek gratification in any organ or appetite of the body, we degrade our nature, and dishonour our Creator. Our happiness is not in the body, but in the soul; not without, but within; and ought never to be sought for as an end, it comes only in self-consecration to duty and to God [Dr. Thomas]. If I see a dish to please my appetite I see a serpent in that apple, and will please myself in a wilful denial [Bishop Hall].
2Ch . Heard thy prayer. If I cared for nothing I would pray for nothing [Melancthon].
"That work which is begun well is half-done;
And without prayer no work is well begun" [Fanshawe].
2Ch . Turn away. Those who forsake God to return to the world, do it because they find more gratification in earthly pleasures than in those arising from communion with God; and because this overpowering charm, carrying them away, causes them to relinquish their first choice, and renders them, as Tertullian says, the penitents of the devil [Blaise Pascal]. "God never leaves any till they first leave Him."
2Ch . Why? Nothing but grace can teach us to make a right use of others' judgments [Bishop Hall].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 7". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany