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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 6

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2992. B.C. 1012.

The time when the temple was built, 1 Kings 6:1 . The dimensions of it, 1 Kings 6:2 , 1 Kings 6:3 . The windows, chambers, materials, doors, 1 Kings 6:4-10 . God’s message to Solomon, 1 Kings 6:11-13 . The walls and flooring, 1 Kings 6:14-18 . The oracle and cherubim, 1 Kings 6:19-30 . The doors and inner court, 1 Kings 6:31-36 . How long it was building, 1 Kings 6:37 , 1 Kings 6:38 .

Verse 1

1 Kings 6:1. In the four hundred and eightieth year Allowing forty years to Moses, seventeen to Joshua, two hundred and ninety-nine to the Judges, forty to Eli, forty to Samuel and Saul, forty to David, and four to Solomon before he began the work, we have just the sum of four hundred and eighty. So long it was before that holy house was built, which in less than four hundred and thirty years was burned by Nebuchadnezzar. It was thus deferred, because Israel had, by their sins, made themselves unworthy of this honour: and because God would show how little he values external pomp and splendour in his service. And God ordered it now, chiefly to be a shadow of good things to come. In the fourth year of Solomon’s reign Solomon was occupied more than three years in making the necessary preparations; for although, his father had amassed much treasure, had left him a plan, and provided many things necessary for the undertaking, yet as these materials, it appears, lay at a considerable distance, and were left rude and unfashioned, it could not cost less time to form them into the exact symmetry in which the Scripture represents them to have been before they were used, and to bring them together to Jerusalem. In the month Zif The second of the ecclesiastical year. The word signifying splendour, beauty, comeliness, it was a very proper name for that month when the trees and the whole vegetable creation first break forth, and the beauty of the spring begins to appear. He began to build the house of the Lord Either to lay the foundation of it, or to build on the foundation before mentioned.

Verse 2

1 Kings 6:2. The house Properly so called, as distinct from all the walls and buildings adjoining to it; namely, the holy and most holy place. Which King Solomon built for the Lord For his worship and service; and wherein his divine presence might, as it were, dwell among them by a visible appearance. The length thereof was threescore cubits From east to west; forty of which belonged to the holy place, and twenty to the most holy. And this and the other measures seem to belong to the inside from wall to wall. The cubit was that of the sanctuary, about a foot and a half. And the breadth thereof twenty cubits The length and breadth of it were twice as much as those of the tabernacle, which in length was but thirty cubits, and in breadth but ten. And the height thereof thirty cubits Just half of the length of the whole house. But this is to be understood of the holy place, for the holy of holies was only twenty cubits high, (1 Kings 6:20,) and the porch was one hundred and twenty, 2 Chronicles 3:4. The height of the holy place, therefore, was three times the height of that part of the tabernacle. For this temple was to resemble a high tower having chambers in three stories, one above another. “All the measures,” says Poole, “compared each with other, were harmonious. For sixty to twenty (the length to the breadth) is triple; or as three to one: and sixty to thirty (the length to the height) is double; or as two to one: and thirty to twenty (the height to the breadth) is one and a half, or as three to two. Which are the proportions answering to the three great concords in music, commonly called a twelfth, an eighth, and a fifth. Which therefore must needs be a graceful proportion to the eye, as that in music is graceful to the ear.”

Verse 3

1 Kings 6:3. The porch before the temple That is, in the front of, or entrance into the house, (2 Chronicles 3:4,) being a portico, a walk, or gallery, at the east end of the building, (from side to side.) And the measures of this were harmonious also. For twenty to ten (the length of the portico to the breadth of it) is double, or as two to one. And if the height within were the same with that of the house, that is, thirty, it was to the length of it, as three to two; and to its breadth, as three to one. Or, if we take in the whole height, mentioned 2 Chronicles 3:4, which is one hundred and twenty, there is in this no disproportion; (being to its length as six to one, and to its breadth as twelve to one;) especially as this height was conveniently divided into several galleries, one over another, all of which had their due proportions.

Verse 4

1 Kings 6:4. Windows of narrow lights Narrow without, to prevent the inconveniences of the weather, and widening by degrees inwardly, that the house might better receive, and more disperse, the light. The tabernacle had no light from without, and it appears by this the temple had not much.

Verse 5

1 Kings 6:5. Against the wall of the house he built chambers For the accommodation of the priests, when they were upon duty at the temple. Here they kept their clothes, the sacred vessels not in immediate use, and the treasures belonging to the temple. These chambers are said to have been built against or adjoining to the wall; for their beams were not fastened into the wall, but leaned upon the buttresses of the wall. Round about On all the sides except the east, where the porch was, and except some very small passages for the light. And yet the lights might be in the five uppermost cubits of the wall, which were above all these chambers, for these were only fifteen cubits high, and the wall was twenty cubits high. And he made chambers round about In the Hebrew, He made ribs; by which some understand galleries, which encompassed all the forenamed chambers, and were necessary for passages to them.

Verse 6

1 Kings 6:6. The nethermost chamber was five cubits broad In the inside, and besides the galleries mentioned above. It appears, by 1 Kings 6:10, that they were but five cubits high, and built over one another in three stories; increasing in breadth every story one cubit, by the contrivance which follows. For without in the wall he made narrowed rests Or narrowings, or rebatements. That is, the wall, to which the chambers were joined, was, as walls generally are in our buildings, thicker or broader below, and narrower above. Only these narrowings were in the outside of the wall, which, at each of the three stories, was a cubit narrower than the part beneath it; so that there was more space for the breadth of the upper chambers, than of those beneath them. That the beams should not be fastened in the walls That there might be no holes made in the wall for fastening them; and that the chambers might be removed, if occasion were, without any injury or inconvenience to the house.

Verse 7

1 Kings 6:7. The house was built of stone made ready Hewed and squared, and so fitted for their several uses and places, according to the direction of the architect, that they might be joined together without any other labour than the putting them one by or upon another. So that there was neither hammer nor axe, &c. The stones were laid without any noise, there being nothing to be done but to join them together. Thus it was ordered, partly for the ease and convenience of carriage; partly for the magnificence of the work, and commendation of the workmen’s skill and diligence; and partly for mystical signification. And as this temple was a manifest type, both of Christ’s church upon earth, and of the heavenly Jerusalem; so this circumstance signified, as to the former, that it is the duty of the builders and members of the church, as far as in them lies, to take care that all things be transacted there with perfect peace and quietness; and that no noise of contention, or division, or violence, be heard in that sacred building; and for the latter, that no spiritual stone, no person, shall bear a part in that heavenly temple, unless he be first hewed, and squared, and made meet for it in this life.

Verse 8

1 Kings 6:8. The door for the middle chamber That is, by which they entered to go up into the middle row of chambers; was in the right side That is, in the south side, called the right side, because, when a man looks toward the east, the south is on his right hand. There was another door on the left, or the north side, leading to the chambers on that side. They went up with winding stairs Without the wall, leading up to the gallery, out of which they went into the several chambers. Into the middle chamber Or, rather, into the middle story, or row of chambers; and so in the following words, out of the middle story: for these stairs could not lead up into each of the chambers, nor was it needful, but only into the story, which was sufficient for the use of all the chambers.

Verses 9-10

1 Kings 6:9-10. So he built the house, and finished it That is, the walls of the house. And then he built chambers There is nothing in the Hebrew for the word then, which being omitted, the sense is, that he here gives an account of the height of these chambers, as, 1 Kings 6:6, he did of the breadth. But it is very briefly; and we are to understand that those below, and those in the middle, and those above, were all of an equal height, namely, five cubits. So they were fifteen cubits in all, which was five less than the height of the house, for that was twenty cubits; otherwise there would have been no room for the windows, which, it is probable, were above all these chambers, in the top of the house.

Verses 11-13

1 Kings 6:11-13. The word of the Lord came to Solomon By the prophet. If thou wilt walk in my statutes, &c. Here God expresses the condition upon which his promise and favour is suspended; and, by assuring him thereof in case of obedience, he plainly intimates the contrary upon his disobedience. Thus he was taught, that all the charge he and the people were at, in erecting this temple, would neither excuse them from obedience to the law of God, nor shelter them from his judgments in case of disobedience. And I will dwell among the children of Israel As I have done in the tabernacle. And will not forsake my people But protect them in the good land I have given them.

Verse 15

1 Kings 6:15. He built the walls within with boards of cedar He wainscoted the house, as we now speak, with cedar. Both the floor of the house and the walls of the ceiling Or, from the floor unto the ceiling; that is, from the bottom to the top. And he covered the floor with planks of fir Or, with another sort of cedar, which was a great deal firmer and more lasting than fir. See 1 Kings 5:8.

Verse 16

1 Kings 6:16. He built twenty cubits on the sides of the house He speaks here of the most holy place, which contained in length twenty cubits, and might be said to be on the sides of the house, because it took off twenty cubits in length from each side of the house, and was also twenty cubits from side to side, so it was twenty cubits every way. He built them for it within, even for the oracle, the most holy place The last words are added to explain what he means by the word oracle, which he had not used before: this was the most important of all the parts of the house, because here the divine glory was present, and from hence God gave answers when he was consulted, on which account it is termed the oracle.

Verses 17-18

1 Kings 6:17-18. The temple before it The part of the house which was before the most holy place. In the Hebrew the words are, before my face, that is, before the place where the divine glory appeared. Was forty cubits long Twice as long as the most holy place. The cedar of the house was carved Cedar is here named, not to exclude all other wood, but stone only, as the following words show. Carved with knops Or gourds, as it is 2 Kings 4:39, where the like word is translated gourds. And open flowers Imitations of the flowers of the gourd, spread and full blown. All was cedar, there was no stone seen That is, either all the house was covered with cedar, or all the carved work was of cedar.

Verses 19-20

1 Kings 6:19-20. And the oracle Or, rather, the most holy place. He prepared That is, he adorned and fitted it for the reception of the ark. Solomon made every thing new but the ark: that, with its mercy-seat, was still the same that Moses made. This was the token of God’s presence, which is with his people, whether they meet in tent or temple, and changes not with their condition. And the oracle in the forepart That is, in the innermost part, before mentioned, which is called the forepart, because it was before him that entered into the house. And he overlaid it with pure gold Not merely gilded it, but covered it with plates of gold. For the gold amounted to six hundred talents, as is said 2 Chronicles 3:8. And so covered the altar That is, the altar of incense, with gold, chap. 1 Kings 7:48; 1 Chronicles 28:18.

Verse 21

1 Kings 6:21 . So Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold Or, that house, the oracle, or the most holy place; which he made as sumptuous as he could. And he wade a partition by the chains of gold The most holy place was separated from the sanctuary by a partition, before which there was a veil also, which hung upon golden chains. Thus, it seems, this passage is to be understood; for the partition itself did not depend upon chains. Or perhaps these golden chains hung down from the wall only for ornament. Before the oracle In the outward part of the wall or partition which was erected between the oracle and the holy place; which is properly said to be before the oracle, for there the veil was hung, and there the bars, or whatsoever it was which fastened the doors of the oracle, were placed. He overlaid it with gold Namely, the partition; which he here distinguisheth from the house, or the main walls of the house, which he had in the former part of this verse told us were overlaid with gold; and now he affirms as much of the partition.

Verse 22

1 Kings 6:22. And the whole house he overlaid with gold Not only the oracle, but all the holy place; and, as some think, even the chambers belonging to it. Also the whole altar that was by the oracle he overlaid with gold That is, the altar of incense; thence called the golden altar; which was in the upper end of the sanctuary, near the entrance of the oracle. This he covered with cedar, (1 Kings 6:20,) and now overlaid with gold.

Verse 23

1 Kings 6:23. Within the oracle he made two cherubims These were different from, and much larger than those made by Moses, which were of solid gold, and arose out of each end of the mercy-seat, being of one piece with it, and looking one upon the other, Exodus 25:18-19. But these made by Solomon were of olive-wood, or, as it is in the Hebrew, of tree of oil; many sorts of which wood there were besides olive; as pine, cedar, &c. The heathen set up images of their gods, and worshipped them. These cherubim were designed to represent the servants and attendants of the God of Israel, the holy angels; not to be worshipped themselves, but to show how great he is whom we worship.

Here it may be proper to note, that the word דביר , debir, (which our translation constantly renders oracle,) comes from דבר , dabar, which signifies to speak; because God, who dwelt between the cherubim of the ark in the Mosaic tabernacle, declared his mind from thence, when he was consulted by the high-priest with Urim and Thummim. And it still retained this name, though we never read of any answer by Urim and Thummim in this temple. It is highly probable that, upon their rejecting the government of God, and turning the theocracy into a human government by kings, God ceased to direct and govern them by that divine oracle. During the reign of David, indeed, there are some footsteps of it, their new government by kings being not well established. So that we may suppose there was a mixture of the theocracy still with it, as may be gathered from 2 Samuel 2:1; 2 Samuel 21:1. But after that there is not the least glimpse of it; but they inquired of God by the prophets, 1 Kings 22:3; 2Ki 3:11 ; 2 Kings 3:20. And, what is very remarkable, in the days of Josiah, when the high-priest was sent by that king to inquire of God, he applied to Huldah the prophetess for that purpose: which is a demonstration that the answer by Urim and Thummim ceased when God’s government was cast off by them; to which that oracle properly appertained. And therefore in all these places it would be more properly rendered, the most holy place. For though the ark was placed there, no oracles or words of the Lord were given from thence.

Verses 24-26

1 Kings 6:24-26. Were ten cubits Whereas those of Moses were only so long as to cover the mercy-seat, which was but two cubits and a half in length. And the other cherub was ten cubits So that they filled the whole breadth of the house, which was twenty cubits. The height was ten cubits That is, half as high as that most holy place, 1 Kings 6:20. For they stood on their feet upon the floor of it.

Verse 27

1 Kings 6:27. He set the cherubims within the inner house With their faces toward the sanctuary, so that they looked upon him that entered the oracle. They stretched forth the wings of the cherubims Or, rather, the cherubims stretched forth their wings. So that the wing of one touched one wall, &c. That is, they touched the south and north walls of the house. Whereas the wings of those cherubim that Moses made, stretched themselves from east to west. For they looked one upon the other over the mercy-seat. Their wings touched one another in the midst of the house Where they must needs meet, being five cubits long on each side, and the house twenty cubits wide.

Verses 28-29

1 Kings 6:28-29. He overlaid the cherubims with gold It must be observed, there were four cherubim in the most holy place of Solomon’s temple; two lesser made by Moses of massy gold, and two larger made by Solomon, overlaid with gold. Those made by Moses were part of the mercy-seat, and inseparable from it; these of Solomon seem to have spread their wings over it and them, being added only for the greater ornament of God’s house. He carved all the walls with figures of cherubims As signs of the presence and protection of the angels vouchsafed by God to that place. And palm-trees Emblems of that peace and victory over their enemies, which the Israelites duly serving God in that place might expect. Within and without Within the oracle, and without it in the holy place. The floor of the house he overlaid with gold That is, of the whole house, both within the oracle and without it, both of the most holy, and the holy place; which rendered it wonderfully splendid and magnificent.

Verse 31

1 Kings 6:31. The lintel and side-posts were a fifth part of the wall The original text here is very obscure, there being nothing in it for the words, of the wall; but only, The lintel and side-posts were a fifth, which may be understood to signify, that they held the proportion of a fifth part of the doors. But some think the meaning is, that this gate was the fifth in number belonging to the house. The first, they say, was that which led into the court of the people; the second, that which led into the court of the priests; the third was the door of the porch; the fourth, that of the holy place; and this fifth, of the oracle, or most holy. And in this way they interpret a similar expression, (1 Kings 6:33,) which we render a fourth part of the wall, the words, of the wall, being not in the Hebrew, they understand it of the fourth gate; namely, that of the holy place. But the most probable meaning is, as our translators have understood it to be, that the doors, including the lintel and side-posts, here mentioned, as well as the valves, took up a fifth part of the wall or partition, being four cubits in breadth.

Verse 32

1 Kings 6:32. The two doors also were of olive-tree Or, The leaves of the doors; signifying what sort of doors they were, namely, folding-doors, as is more particularly observed 1 Kings 6:34. He carved upon them carvings of cherubims, &c., and overlaid them with gold When the veil, which covered this whole partition, with the doors of it, was drawn aside to give entrance to the high-priest into the holy of holies on the great day of atonement, then these beautiful doors of olive-tree, thus overlaid with gold, and curiously engraved, were displayed to his view, and the view of such priests as might be in the holy place; but otherwise they were seldom seen, and never but by the priests only.

Verse 36

1 Kings 6:36. The inner court That wherein the priests officiated, (2 Chronicles 4:9,) so called because it was next to the temple, which it encompassed. With three rows of hewed stone, and a row of cedar beams It is difficult to ascertain the precise meaning of the sacred historian here. He may be understood as speaking, either, 1st, Of the thickness of the wall, the three rows of stones being one within another, and the cedar innermost, as a lining to the wall. Or, 2d, Of the height of the wall, which was only three cubits high, that the people might see the priests sacrificing upon the altar, which was in their court; each row of stones being about a cubit, and, possibly, of a colour different from the rest, and all covered with cedar. Or, 3d, He is to be understood of so many galleries, one on each side of the temple, whereof the three first were stone, and the fourth of cedar, all supported with rows of pillars, upon which there were many chambers for the uses of the temple, and of the priests.

Verses 37-38

1 Kings 6:37-38. In the fourth year, &c. This was mentioned 1 Kings 6:1, and is here repeated to subjoin, in the next words, how long the house was in building. In the eleventh year, in the month Bul As the second month was called Zif, for the reason before given, so the eighth month was called Bul, which signifies to wither, because then the leaves of the trees began to wither and fall off, and the whole vegetable creation to droop and die. So he was seven years in building “That is,” says Mr. Locke, “speaking in a round number, for he was seven years and six months; neither is this mode of speaking unusual in Scripture.” It is not strange that this work took up so much time; for though the temple, properly so called, was but a small edifice, yet the many courts, offices, chambers, and other buildings about it, above ground and below, made the whole a vast pile; and the exquisiteness of the art, and fewness of the artists that could be employed, made a longer time requisite. Indeed, all things considered, it must be acknowledged Solomon made an extraordinary despatch; for, if the building of Diana’s temple at Ephesus employed all Asia for two hundred years; and no fewer than three hundred and sixty thousand men were occupied for twenty years together in erecting one pyramid, as Pliny affirms, lib. 36, chap. 12, no reasonable man can wonder that this temple was seven years and a half in building. See Calmet, and Univ. Hist., vol. 4. octavo. Now let us see what this temple typifies:

1. Christ himself is the true temple. He himself spoke of the temple of his body: and in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead. In him all the Israel of God meet, and through him have access with confidence to God.

2. Every believer is a living temple, in whom the Spirit of God dwelleth: we are wonderfully made by the divine providence, but more wonderfully made anew by the divine grace; and as Solomon’s temple was built on a rock, so are we built on Christ.

3. The church is a mystical temple, enriched and beautified, not with gold and precious stones, but with the gifts and graces of the Spirit. Angels are ministering spirits, attending the church, and all the members of it, on all sides.

4. Heaven is the everlasting temple; there the church will be fixed, and no longer moveable: the cherubim there always attend upon the throne of glory. In the temple there was no noise of axes or hammers: every thing is quiet and serene in heaven. All that shall be stones in that building, must here be fitted and made ready for it; must be hewed and squared by the divine grace, and so made meet for a place in that temple.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 6". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-kings-6.html. 1857.
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