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This chapter is occupied with three subjects. First, the description of Heaven's acceptance of the dedicated temple by fire (2 Chronicles 7:1-3). Secondly, the sacrifices and glad feasting of Solomon and all Israel for several days (2 Chronicles 7:4-11). Thirdly, the articulate answer of God to the offering and the prayer of Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:12-22).
2 Chronicles 7:1
When Solomon had made an end of praying. See the parallel, 1 Kings 8:54, which verse, however, in a sense, disappoints us; for, beginning with these same words, it does not go on at all to tell of this second occurrence of the fire and the cloud and the glory. The fire came … and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices. So Le 1 Kings 9:24, when the tabernacle was consecrated. The closing verses of our 1 Kings 5:1-18; compared with the first verse of 1 Kings 6:1-38; and in particular the first word of that verse, "then," leave it quite open to conjecture that the demonstration of the fire and the glory of the Lord had not ceased, but was continued during the prayer of Solomon, though at its close they may have been marked with added brightness, and then wrought their sacrifice-consuming work. Such supposition may bring us nearest to some tenable explanation of what otherwise seems the very unaccountable omission in the parallel. The language of our 1 Kings 6:2 adds something to countenance this theory, coinciding as it does with the language of the last verses of 1 Kings 5:1-18.
2 Chronicles 7:3
For he is good (so 2 Chronicles 5:13; 1 Chronicles 16:34).
2 Chronicles 7:4, 2 Chronicles 7:5
These two verses bring us again into company with the parallel in its verses 62, 63. Let it be noticed that in both these verses the compiler of Chronicles avoids the words, "all Israel," and "all the children of Israel;" in favour of all the people. The parallel tells us that the sacrifices in part were peace offerings, eatable, therefore, by priests and people. Large as the numbers of the oxen and sheep sacrificed, yet indications in the narrative round about do something to sustain them, as e.g. the number of people who had come together; the fact that all the people are said to offer sacrifices; the fact that Solomon, Because of the press for room (2 Chronicles 7:7), hallowed the middle of the court, i.e. probably the court itself, in order to find place for the "burnt offerings, meat offerings, and fat" (2 Chronicles 7:7); further, the number of mouths of people that certainly would need filling, not only on one day, but on days more than one, while on the third day (Le 2 Chronicles 19:6) any part of a peace offering still left was to be destroyed by fire. Nevertheless, the thought of the scene of butchery is, to our modern imagination, amazing to the last degree. An assemblage of people in Jerusalem, all making also for its temple, of a hundred and twenty thousand people, and a minimum of another twenty-two thousand people, is startling; but add to these a sheep apiece for the former number, and an ox apiece for the latter, and allow several days to be covered by the- killing and sacrificing, and one feels that the key and explanation of the present words of the Bible text in this very passage are scarcely in hand. The interesting note in the 'Speaker's Commentary' on 1 Kings 8:63 scarcely assists us. Its instances of the "profusion" of the "sacrifices of antiquity" are altogether and immensely distanced by the narrative before us, not only in the number of victims, but in respect of the time in which the victims had to be despatched and disposed of, and the place and space within which, if not the slaughtering, yet certainly the offering, had to be done.
2 Chronicles 7:6
This verse is not found in the parallel (2Ch2Ch 5:12, 2Ch 5:13; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 1 Chronicles 23:5).
2 Chronicles 7:8
Also at the same time … the feast; i.e. the Feast of Tabernacles, which occupied the seven days from the fifteenth to the twenty-second of the month Tisri (Leviticus 23:33). Thus fourteen days (1 Kings 8:65)were occupied by the two feasts, that of the temple consecration and that of Tabernacles, while on the fifteenth day of feasting, viz. the twenty-third of the month Tisri, or Ethanim (the seventh month), the people went home. The entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt; i.e. from the extreme north to the extreme south of the land. The town Hamath was on the Orontes, through the valley of the Lebanon (Joshua 13:3, Joshua 13:5; also Numbers 13:21; Numbers 34:8; Judges 3:3; 2 Kings 14:25; 1 Chronicles 13:5; Amos 6:2, Amos 6:14). The river of Egypt; or, the river before Egypt (Joshua 13:3), was the Shihor, or Sihor, separating Egypt and Judaea.
2 Chronicles 7:9
Solemn assembly. The word thus translated in the Authorized Version occurs (including both its but very slightly differing forms) eleven times. Five of these times the margin offers, probably unnecessarily, the optional rendering of "restraint." It may be that the root involves this idea, and certainly the word is especially used for the seventh or closing day of Passover, and eighth or closing day of Tabernacles; but other occasions of its use seem to negative this as an essential element in the signification or essential condition of the use of the word; e.g. "Proclaim a solemn assembly" (2 Kings 10:20); "Call a solemn assembly" (Joel 1:14; Joel 2:15).
2 Chronicles 7:11
(See now for the parallel 1 Kings 9:1-9.) The king's house … the house of the Lord … his own house. The expressions that we have in this verse guide us amid some ambiguities to the correct date of the consecration of the temple. The verse purports to speak of the final completion the temple and the king's house or palace, with all whatsoever that was necessary to them in the matter of their furnishing. And, to say the least, the impression naturally produced on the reader is that they are spoken of as being thus completed simultaneously, although, beyond doubt, there was a sense in which the temple was (not utterly finished but) built long before the palace. Accordingly, when the next verse tells us of God's answer vouchsafed to the dedication prayer of Solomon, we are not driven to the supposition that several years had elapsed since the final completion of the temple and the dedication of it on the one hand, nor, on the other hand, a similar interval lost between the dedication prayer and the Divine acknowledgment of it. It may be again stated that the main structure of the temple (not including courts, pillars, furnishing, vessels, etc.) was built after seven years' process, in the eleventh year of Solomon's reign, but the palace only after another complete twelve years (1 Kings 7:1), in Solomon's twenty-fourth year. A liberal study of the parallel narrative of Kings in its entirety strengthens considerably this view, inasmuch as there the whole account of the palace-building finds its place previous to the account of the dedicating of the temple. However, though there can be little practical doubt as to how the facts of the case stood and stand, yet this occasion must count one to be added to the chronological memorabilia of Scripture, in that, while both the accounts to which we have access leave very vague the very things we should naturally expect to have been stated concisely, they also both seem entirely unconscious of it—a directest outcome of the fact that both writers were but picking their own way in the midst of borrowed material, neither of them the original historian.
2 Chronicles 7:12
See 1 Kings 3:5; 1 Kings 9:2; Deuteronomy 12:2, Deuteronomy 12:3, Deuteronomy 12:5-7, Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:14; and, by turning to the last of these sets of references, the emphasis laid here upon the house as the house of sacrifice will be amply accounted for without supposing a rather premature aside as regards synagogues. Meantime, what a feature, manifestly, the sacrifices were!
2 Chronicles 7:13-15
These three verses (the counterparts of 2 Chronicles 6:26, 2 Chronicles 6:28, 2 Chronicles 6:40) are not in the parallel. Although we can scarcely trace the principle of their selection from the seven parts of the prayer, they would seem to have been selected from the original work, as samples of a reply which presumably embraced reference to all the seven. When, in 2 Chronicles 7:14, it is said, I will heal their land, the telling expression, according to the Authorized Version, must be understood to refer to the removing of drought by rain. On the other hand, the Authorized Version is, in 2 Chronicles 7:15, unfortunate in the unnecessary and misleading insertion of the italics found there, and in the use of the preposition "in" for of, the simple case construct, which is manifestly what is wanted and intended. It was not absolutely essential that prayer should be made in the place. How many references there are to prayer being made from a distance toward the place!
2 Chronicles 7:16
This verse glances, as an answer to the contents, or spirit of the contents, of the second petition at 2 Chronicles 6:18-21. The beautiful touching condescension in the wording of the last clause, Mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually, will not escape notice.
2 Chronicles 7:17, 2 Chronicles 7:18
These two verses glance at the first petition of Solomon's prayer (2 Chronicles 6:15-17). (See also 2 Chronicles 3:12; 2Sa 7:12; 1 Chronicles 22:10.)
2 Chronicles 7:19, 2 Chronicles 7:20
And forsake. The parallel (1 Kings 9:6) puts it, according to the Authorized Version, "If ye shall at all turn from following me," etc; which rendering on the part of the Authorized Version probably errs by excess. Much mercy, much forbearing, long-suffering, and slowness to anger, were sure to mark the Divine rule; nor would condemnation take effect, nor did it take effect, till the revolt of the people was a thorough revolt, as finally testifying itself in the crucifixion of Christ (see also, as comments on the expressions of these two verses, Le 2 Chronicles 26:14; Deuteronomy 4:26, Deuteronomy 4:27; Deuteronomy 28:37, and generally 15-64). The same Hebrew words for a proverb and a byword among all nations are found in verse 37, as just quoted.
2 Chronicles 7:21
The Hebrew text of the first sentence of this verse differs here from that in the parallel; but, in fact, neither text reads satisfactorily and smoothly. The parallel (1 Kings 9:8) inserts the little word "at," though without italics, and "which" in italic type. The "at" is no doubt intended to be condoned as supposed to belong to the word astonished; the following verb hiss also permitting, though not requiring, the appendage. Not leaning to the text of the parallel (which shows no אֲשֶׁר, and which shows the substantive verb in the future tense יִהְיֶה), we need not find any particular difficulty in rendering our present text, And this house, which is most high (the word well favours this idea), shall be an astonishment to every passer by. The Septuagint reads simply, "This lofty house." Why hath the Lord done this? (see Deuteronomy 29:24; Jeremiah 22:8, Jeremiah 22:9). To the "astonishment'' prophesied here the parallel adds, "shall hiss"—in a forcible expression found first in 2 Chronicles 29:8, and afterwards in Micah (Micah 6:16)and in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8; Jeremiah 25:9, etc.; Lamentations 2:15, Lamentations 2:16).
2 Chronicles 7:1-22
The testimony by fire, and the vouchsafed glory of the Lord.
This chapter invites attention to four subjects, no one of which is entirely fresh, but each one of which owns to fresh impressiveness by virtue of position, particularity of description, and the more touching associations which now surround it. Attention, then, may be called first of all and chiefly to—
I. THE MARVEL OF THE DESCENDING FIRE FROM HEAVEN. It is remarkable that the parallel (1 Kings 8:1-66.) does not mention this great event, and that a similar event is again carefully recorded by the writer of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 21:26). Such a descending, kindling, lambent, and consuming fire—what a sign and token it was! What a startling testimony—to give a moment's directness of help to our own thought—such a manifestation of the elder Church would be to some finished effort of our later ecclesiastical life! It is not given, it is not to be given, to us. But never must we allow ourselves to forget that its spiritual antitype is to be believed in, sought by prayer, beheld in purest vision of the elevated spiritual imagination, and to be regarded as indispensable. It meant and its real and more spiritual fulfilment means:
1. The notice of heaven. What a genuine help to us, to have reason to believe this, and therefore gratefully to cultivate the sense of it! The notice of heaven means nothing, or it means the notice of God. As surely as a deep present conviction of that notice is calculated to deter from sin, so surely is it adapted to encourage us in worship, prayer, praise, meditation, and reading of the Word of God, and to dignify to us the nature of every engagement.
2. The approval of heaven. There is much indeed that the eye of God unfailingly notices, but as unfailingly disapproves. Descending fire more than once was the proof in the history of the people of Israel of this also, but it was very different descent and of altogether differing manifestation.
3. The actual participation and co-operation of heaven. The dedication of the temple was one thing, but the consecration of it was another, and though, indeed, it was not even such fire as this that by itself did the consecration or was of the essence of it, yet it was the evidence of it, and the visible sign and act of it. The fire of holy feeling, of devoutness, of devotion, of love, of pure adoring worship, is not of nature, nor of the ministry of man, nor of the ability of the high priest or any priest, to kindle. The kindling must come from the throne itself, whither whatsoever it is that we may have to offer is ascending. The sacrifices of prayer, of praise, of a poor, broken, contrite heart, need all and each the inspiring illumination and fire of and from the altar itself. What a thought, what a truth, for us! Our worship and our works of devotion need to be pervaded with this conviction, and if they were so, at how much higher a level would they be found, and with how much steadier life would they show themselves forth! Moments, and sometimes even hours, of our inner consciousness would in no way fall short, for impression, conviction, and surpassing joy and peace, of what were present actually now, in the rapt, and again the impassioned, experience of all Israel. That moment was indeed a moment worth a nation's living for. Read the verses (1, 2, 3) themselves. But the instance is but one of a thousand, that tell how soon impression fades away, of what may be most grand, most significant of all, when its source comes from without. The deeper things of our hearts may last longer. Let us therefore seek, honour, prize, them rather!
II. The fact that, with the finishing, dedication, and consecration of the temple, THE FULL COMPLEMENT OF THE SERVICES OF RELIGION WAS ESTABLISHED. In four particulars this is noted, viz. the unanimous effort of king and people to accomplish the full number of sacrifices; the falling of the priests into their places, and the filling of their regular offices; the same of the Levites with their instruments of music; and lastly, the hallowing of the middle of the court before the house, as an auxiliary place for the offering of burnt offerings and of the fat of the peace offerings. This was by no means the one solitary time, or the last time, that has illustrated the general principle of the utility of having the outer form and the outer institutions of the Church order in their place and in distinct prominence. While the Church is on earth, at least, the things of the eye, the things of the ear, memories, associations, company, and the stronger kinds and forces of anticipation—all help religious fidelity; they are naturally fitted to do so, and, as thus naturally adapted to high use, are not justifiably to be neglected, slighted, underrated, or presumptuously regarded, as either optional in all cases, or quite dispensable in the case of those who credit themselves with a larger measure of spiritual power and principle than belongs to others. This very assumption is, He, too generally decisive of an opposite state of things. We have at present comparatively little to do with what may prove to be the mode, the infinitely grander mode, of worship and service up above. But here the form has its importance; and if so, the righter form, or more perfect form, or more beautiful form remains to be studied and sought. Have we not even here an instance of the educative genius of sincere religion, however simple it may be? It certainly insists on "cleanliness." It certainly insists on order. And as matter of fact, and lying in the whole course of the history of the Church for eighteen centuries, how unmistakably and undeniably it has nourished all "things lovely," sights of beauty and sounds of beauty,—postulating and necessitating in turn what underlie these, viz. thoughts and feelings of beauty and of truth!
III. THE DISTINCT NOTICE RECORDED OF THE SATISFACTION THE WHOLE PEOPLE EXPERIENCED WHILE THEIR RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL LASTED—some fourteen to fifteen days—AND THEIR GRATEFUL, HAPPY MEMORIES OF IT, ON THE HIGHEST GROUNDS, as they returned and journeyed home. It was no doubt, in countless instances, on countless occasions, true that there was a humble rehearsal of the saying of the two disciples (who had journeyed to Emmaus in the holiest of company, and in the most sacred of religious instruction, and finally service of breaking of bread), "Did not our heart burn within us?" The people now returned to tent and home, "glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the Lord had showed to David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people." There is no higher joy than religious, no better company, and no better cheer of good company.
IV. A FRESH DIVINE VISION GRANTED TO SOLOMON. This vision was granted for the threefold purpose of assuring Solomon:
1. That his temple-prayer had been heard, and that it should be implicitly and explicitly answered from time to time. The accepted and hallowed "house of prayer," dedicate now and consecrate, should be a perpetual living oratory. There was everything now about the house and in the house to constitute it fitly such, and it is now written with authority and with promise, "My house shall be called the house of prayer." What a centre of life, of hope, of refuge, for that people unto all generations if they know and remember the day of their merciful visitation!
2. That the Divine covenant with him should not fail, should never fail, and the Divine promise to him should be established for ever, if he remembered, and remembered to do his part involved in, the covenant. Here ancestral memories were drawn upon, and brilliant promises of the future were called in, to exercise their powerful influence, and both for the service of offering direction and warning and encouragement.
3. That exemplary and certain and most notable retribution would be the portion of the nation if they turned away to idolatry. With simplest grandeur and force is this dread reverse (in a possible, alas! too probable future) announced, if haply the announcement may be an effectual deterrent. The people shall be plucked up by the roots, like plants from the land; the sanctified house shall be repudiated, made a by-word and a proverb, and the very mark of astonishment to all by-passers. It shall excite and awake the wondering questions of many a nation—those questions to receive one simple, faithful, but dreadful answer: "Because they forsook the Lord God … and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped and served them."
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 7:1-3
The Divine approval.
The incident here recorded was one that must have lived for ever in the memory of those who witnessed it. The occasion itself was of surpassing interest; all the accessories were fitted to deepen the impression; and when the miraculous fire came down from heaven upon the altar, there was an event which every present Israelite must have delighted to describe in after-days to those who did not witness it. Its significance was twofold. It was—
I. A MANIFESTATION OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE AND GLORY. For that fire, and the "glory of the Lord" filling the house of the Lord, spake of the present God and of his glory; and before it the priests retired and the people bowed down in reverential worship, "with their faces to the ground? The scene carries with it a summons to constant reverence.
1. Reverence in all worship; for God is as truly, though not as miraculously and manifestly, present in his sanctuary to-day as he was on this "high day" at Jerusalem.
2. Reverence of spirit at all times and everywhere. For may we not say that the whole earth is "the house of the Lord," and that it is filled with his presence and his glory? All the objects of nature that we are looking upon, all the processes of nature that we are watching, all creature life and gladness, attest his presence and his power. "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord," and therefore of the glory of the Lord (Psalms 33:5 with Exodus 33:19). Reverently, therefore, should we walk through the world, as those who feel that God is very near us, that we "stand before God," that his hand is working for us in the air and on the earth, that he is the One "with whom we have to do" always, in whom everywhere we live and move and have our being.
II. AN ASSURANCE OF THE DIVINE APPROVAL. The descending flame was the surest and strongest possible indication that all the work of the past years had been approved, and that Jehovah accepted the house which had been built as his own. It was right enough, therefore, for the assembled multitude to be not only affected with awe, but to be filled with thankfulness and sacred joy, as they sang, "The Lord is good; his mercy endureth for ever." The approval of God was everything to Israel. It was much, very much indeed, for what it was in itself; it was much also as an absolute assurance of national prosperity. Respecting the Divine approval, it:
1. Should be the first object of our heart's desire. For if we do not possess the favour of God, our heavenly Father, all other advantages are of little worth, and should wholly fail to satisfy us; while, if we do possess his favour, all difficulties, and even all distresses, may be patiently borne and even cheerfully accepted. To be the children and the heirs of God (Romans 8:17) is to be and to inherit that which is of transcendent worth.
2. Must be sought in the divinely appointed way; and that is, by the cordial acceptance of his Son as our Saviour, Lord, and Friend.
3. Will awaken our deepest joy and call forth our most fervent praise. We too shall celebrate the "goodness" and the "mercy" of the Lord; his praise will be continually upon our lips.
4. Must be maintained by faithfulness unto the end. For it is only when we "abide in him," and continue to "keep his commandments," that his love and his joy "abide in us" (John 15:6-11).—C.
2 Chronicles 7:4, 2 Chronicles 7:5
What meant this great slaughter of sheep and oxen? Why such a large, such a lavish expenditure of creature life? With our modem ideas of the sacredness of life, animal as well as human, we naturally inquire what purpose was served by sacrifices on such a scale as this. Clearly it was—
I. NOT IN OBEDIENCE TO A DIVINE COMMAND. There was no precept of the Law applicable to the case; the matter was entirely exceptional, and Solomon was cast on the resources of his own judgment and feeling. A very large part of our service must be spontaneous. We are continually placed in circumstances in which no biblical statute can be quoted. We need to be possessed of such broad and deep religions principles that these will serve us in any position in which we may be placed. It is not a vast array of precepts, but a few inclusive and suggestive principles, which prepare us for the eventualities of our life.
II. NOT TO ENRICH ONE WHO KNOWS NO NECESSITY. Whatever idea the heathen nations around may have had of their sacrifices as an enrichment of their deities, the Israelites had no such vain thought (see Psalms 50:8-13). We cannot enrich by our material presentations One who claims and holds the entire earth as his possession. Yet is there that which we can give to God which will, in a true sense, add to his possessions—our hearts and our lives; our own true selves; our trust, our love, our joy in him. May we not say that by the filial response of his children he is enriched?
III. NOT TO APPEASE AN INEXORABLE ONE. It might be well enough that the priests of Baal should have recourse to all the arts and devices of a passionate importunity in order to secure his attention and enlist his aid (1 Kings 18:26-29). But the Divine Father whom we worship has not to be approached thus in order to be attentive to the voice of our prayer, or in order to grant us his merciful regard. He may, indeed, for a time withhold from us a sense of his favour in order to draw forth our prayer and to deepen our faith, and thus to enlarge and bless us. But as he did not require a vast multitude of beasts to be slain on his altar that his anger might be appeased, so does he not require any multiplied devotions, or incessant entreaties that his forgiving love may be extended to us. On the other hand, he waits to be gracious, and is prepared to go forth to meet the spirit that returns to him. It was, then—
IV. A DESIRE TO RENDER ADDED HONOUR TO THE HOLY AND THE GRACIOUS ONE.
1. Solomon and those who were about him may have been powerfully affected by the near presence of the Holy One of Israel; and they may consequently have been disposed to offer these sacrifices which purified them from all uncleanness and made them less unworthy to stand before him; thus regarded, these lavish offerings were the overflow of their humility. We are in no danger of going too far in this direction. We may, indeed, sometimes use language of shame and penitence which is in advance of our inward thought and actual spiritual condition. That is a great mistake. It is not acceptable to God, and it is misleading to ourselves. But we are never in danger of having too deep a sense of our own unworthiness; by all means let humility of spirit have free course, both in fact and in expression. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
2. Solomon and his attendants may have been keenly touched by a sense of God's great and special goodness to them, and they may, therefore, have presented these offerings in gratitude and devotion. They were thus the overflow of their zeal. It is right that our zeal in the worship and service of God should be unbound by limits, should be free to utter itself in large and even lavish contributions. We are not to be tied to the tenth of our produce and our income; we may be free and eager to contribute a fifth, a half, two-thirds of all that we possess "for the furtherance of the gospel." We are not limited to one-seventh of our time for devotion, or to any prescribed times in the day for communion with God; we do well to let our hearts ascend in prayer and holy fellowship every day and at all hours of the day. If we have the consciousness of God's abounding kindness, of our Saviour's surpassing love, of the Holy Spirit's grace and patience which we should have, to which we may all of us attain, we shall let there be a glad and generous overflow of offering unto God. We shall let our praise, our contribution, our endeavour, be multiplied. There will be no narrow regulation, but a broad and open spontaneity in our service of Jesus Christ.—C.
2 Chronicles 7:8-11
A very happy time it was when the temple was opened at Jerusalem. It may be said that the city of God and the people of God dwelt in the sunshine of his presence and his favour. It was a protracted period of sacred joy and gladdening prosperity.
I. SOLEMNITIES AND FESTIVITIES ARE FITTINGLY ASSOCIATED. "At the same time" i.e. in close conjunction with the solemn rites that were observed within the temple, "Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him." The slaying of the devoted animal on the altar and the spreading of the table for a common feast, sacrificial worship and festive delights, went hand in hand. This was quite in keeping with the provision of the Law. And it is in perfect accord with the spirit, the institutions, and the precepts of the gospel.
1. The spirit of the gospel enjoins humility before God, and then trust and joy in God.
2. The principal institution of the gospel is a common participation at a table—a table at which the living, loving Host meets his friends, welcomes them with joy, and invites them to rejoice in him.
3. The precept of the gospel is, "Humble yourselves before God," and "Rejoice in the Lord alway." At our most solemn engagements and in our most sacred hours the note of holy joy should never be absent long; indeed, it should be the prevailing note in Christian service.
II. SACRED JOY SHOULD BE UNSELFISH IN ITS CHARACTER. These men were glad at heart "for the goodness that the Lord had showed unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people." They were filled with joy because their departed sovereign's deepest desire was fulfilled, and because (they thought) if he were present his heart would be enlarged; they were gladdened because their present king was elated with an honourable pride and a profound satisfaction, and they made his joy their own. Moreover, their patriotism was stirred within them, and they rejoiced because they felt that their nation was now in the sunshine of the Divine favour. It is well to be able to say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me;" it is better to be able to sing, "Surely God is good to Israel." Our piety rises to a higher altitude when concern for ourselves passes into solicitude for the welfare of our fellow-men, when gratitude for personal favours is lest in thankfulness to God for his mercy to our race.
III. PIETY IS SURE TO FIND ITS WAY HOME. The people went back to "their tents" with this abounding exultation. They carried it home; they shared it with those with whom they dwelt; they communicated it to those who could not derive it from the temple-scenes themselves. This is a simple Christian obligation. All that we have from God we should carry home with us; and particularly those inspirations and exaltations which we gain in his house and from his worship we should impart to our kindred and our friends. We are closely related to one another for the express purpose that we may communicate to one another the best and highest that is within us—our purest thoughts, our worthiest feelings, our highest aspirations, our most sacred joys.
IV. PIETY AND PROSPERITY ARE VERY CLOSELY ALLIED. It was very right that the building of the king's house (2 Chronicles 7:11) should follow the erection of the house of the Lord; it was quite natural that the one should lead to the other. We are not surprised to read that in all Solomon's undertakings he "prospered effectively." He was living and labouring in the fear and the love of God; he was walking in the light Of God's countenance. While the reward of piety is inward and spiritual rather than outward and material—is in peace, hope, rectitude, Christ-likeness of spirit and character rather than in "riches and honour," yet is it true that "godliness has the promise of the life that now is;" it tends constantly to virtue, to prudence, to thrift, to comfort, to prosperity.—C.
2 Chronicles 7:16
The temple, the Temple, and the temples of the Lord.
We are reminded in these words of successive manifestations of the Divine to the children of men. We have first—
I. THE TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM. This was for many generations and for many centuries the chosen place and method of Divine manifestation. It was:
1. The sacred place, "chosen and sanctified" of God, the recognized spot where Cod was to be approached, where his presence was markedly and peculiarly felt, where sacrifice and prayer were to be offered to him, and where pardon and grace were to be gained from him.
2. The place of revelation, where the nature and the character of the Supreme was to be known, and whence it was to be made known. God's "Name [was to be] there forever." There he was to be known as the one Divine Spirit, as the Holy One, the Just One, the Merciful One; there he revealed himself in such wise that his worshippers "knew the Lord;" knew him so that they could truly honour him, obediently and acceptably serve him, attain towards his own character and spirit.
3. The place where God manifested himself in peculiar kindness. "Mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually." Not, indeed, that this is not applicable, in a very true sense, everywhere. For "the eyes of the Lord are in every place," and there are none of his children or of his creatures in whom he is not interested. But upon his people worshipping him in his house he would look down with peculiar kindness; and towards them, as they reverently and obediently poured forth their praises or brought their grateful offerings, his heart of love would lean.
II. THE ONE GREATER THAN THE TEMPLE, who yet was the Temple of the Lord in his day. For Jesus Christ was he in whom and through whom God manifested himself to mankind, in whom he dwelt and from whom his glory shone.
1. Whoso approached him drew nigh to God and stood in the Divine presence.
2. He made known "the Name" of God, for he revealed the Father unto the human race; has caused us all to know and to feel that God is, above everything else, the Divine Father, who cares for all his children, and who, whatever their wanderings may be, earnestly remembers them still and is seeking their return.
3. He was the One toward whom "the eyes and the heart" of God were peculiarly directed, the "beloved Son in whom he was well pleased," and for whose sake his eye of pity and his heart of love are directed to mankind. Not the magnificent Herodian structure on Zion, but that Son of man who often walked about its courts, was the Object in which, in whom, God was to be sought and found.
III. OURSELVES THE TEMPLES OF THE LORD. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). What Christ was when he was in the world, that we are to be now. He was the Light of the world, and he said to us," Ire are the light of the world;" so he was the temple of God, the One in whom God dwelt, and through whom his Name (his character and his purpose) was made known; and now he charges us to be the "temples of the Holy Ghost;" as men regard us and our life they should be reminded of the Divine, of the truth and the spirit and the character that are of God. We should be living to make God known to all whom we can anywise reach and teach. Upon us his eyes are fixed, and toward us his heart is going in all Divine tenderness and love. We do not fulfil the end of our Christian life except it be true of us that we are the temples of the living God. Not to any sacred place or any consecrated building need men go to find the truth and the Spirit of God; it is (or it should be) enough that they approach the nearest Christian man; they will find what they seek in his words, his bearing, his character, his life.—C.
2 Chronicles 7:17-22
The Divine promise.
This is very large and generous, but it is always conditional. God never makes a promise which is absolutely unconditional. We can readily see that it is morally impossible for him to do so; it would be unrighteous, unwise, and, in the end, unkind so to do. tie must and does say, "If … then I will; if not … then I will not." So was it (or so is it) with—
I. THE ROYAL FAMILY. God's promise to David and to Solomon that the royal house should be established and should continue to reign was conditional on their allegiance to himself (1 Chronicles 22:13; 1 Chronicles 28:7): "If thou wilt walk before me," etc. (2 Chronicles 7:17). The melancholy issue proved only too well that there was no possibility of the fulfilment of the hope apart from obedience to the will of God.
II. THE NATION. God's promises to Israel were great, but they, were conditional on its fidelity. In this passage the possibility of forfeiture is very fully stated (2 Chronicles 7:19-22). And in the long exile which the Jews suffered in Babylon, and in the terrible dispersion after the destruction of Jerusalem and the extinction of Israel as a nation, we find a fearful fulfilment of the solemn warning of the text. God deals with families and with nations now as he did with his own people. If they walk in truth, in wisdom, in righteousness, in godliness, they are established; but if they depart from faith and purity, they fall. History will furnish ample illustration of the doctrine; the observation of one long life will supply strong corroboration of its truth.
III. THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL. God makes very great promises to us all; they are "exceeding great and precious" (2 Peter 1:4). They include the forgiveness of sins, restoration to perfect Sonship, guidance and provision through all our earthly course, the preservation of our spiritual integrity in trial and temptation, a full response to our prayer and our Christian effort, peace in death, everlasting glory. But not one of these is promised to us irrespective of our attitude or our action. We must repent of our sin, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, if we would be forgiven and restored; we must seek first the kingdom of God, and ask honestly and sincerely for Divine help, if we would receive all needful blessings for the life that now is; we must shun the spiritual peril which we are not called upon to face, and strive against the enemy we have to encounter, if we would prevail against our adversaries; we must abide in Christ, if we would bear the fruits of the Spirit of God; we must be prayerful and persevering and devoted, if we would work a good work for our Lord and our race; we must be faithful unto death, if we would wear and win "the crown of life."—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 7:1-7
The acceptance of Solomon's prayer.
I. THE ANSWERING GOD. (2Ch 7:1, 2 Chronicles 7:2.) By himself set forth (Isaiah 65:24; Jeremiah 33:3), by his people recognized (Psalms 65:2; Psalms 99:8; Isaiah 58:9), and by Christ revealed (Matthew 7:7-11; Matthew 18:19; John 16:23) as a Hearer of prayer, Jehovah responded to the intercession of Israel's king by a twofold sign.
1. By fire from heaven. "The God that answereth by fire," said Elijah upon Carmel, "let him be God" (1 Kings 18:24); and in this case "the fire came down from heaven and consumed"—not the people, as it did Nadab and Abihu (Le 2 Chronicles 10:2), and Azariah's captains with their fifties (2 Kings 1:10, 2 Kings 1:12, 2 Kings 1:14), and as James and John wished it to do to the Samaritans (Luke 9:54); but the sacrifices, as it did with Moses (Le John 9:24), Gideon (Judges 6:21), David (1 Chronicles 21:26), and Elijah (1 Kings 18:38). That this fire was that which symbolized Jehovah's presence at the bush (Exodus 3:2), on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:18), at Horeb (1 Kings 19:12), on the Chebar (Ezekiel 1:4), in Babylon (Daniel 7:9), and now also in the temple, may be assumed. That as a symbol this fire pointed to the holiness and judicial wrath of God against sin seems plausible and indeed probable; if so it becomes apparent, without comment, why the sacrifices and not the people were devoured. The victims on the altars were the people's substitutes, the bearers of the people's sins; hence on them rather than on the people the fire from heaven fell. The consumption of the sacrifices was an intimation that the people were accepted. Or, if fire be taken as the symbol of God's refining and sanctifying power, the notion is hardly different, since God refines and sanctifies by burning up and destroying (legally by his judicial wrath, and spiritually by his gracious influences within the soul) all that is sinful, and therefore obnoxious to his holiness and justice alike (cf. Hebrews 12:29). So God still accepts the inward spiritual sacrifices of his people by sending down upon them fire from heaven, by annihilating and destroying the sin that attaches to them, through the fire of Christ's Passion, and by refining the hearts that offer them through the fire of his Spirit (Matthew 3:11).
2. By the glory-cloud. This, which appears to have taken possession of the holy of holies, and indeed of the entire shrine immediately on the close of the ceremony of the introduction of the ark (verse 14), is again said to have filled the house, Not that it had withdrawn from the house and afterwards returned when Solomon had ended his prayer; but merely that the two things are now brought together—the fire upon the altar and the glory in the house as parts of one and the same complex phenomenon, which indicated the acceptance of Solomon's temple and prayer. The heart which God accepts he stills fills with his glory—the glory of his presence as a prayer-hearing, sin-forgiving, love-manifesting, holiness-working, glory-preparing God (John 14:21, John 14:23; Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Colossians 1:27; Revelation 3:20).
II. THE WORSHIPPING PEOPLE. (Verse 3.) Overawed by the spectacle they beheld, the people adored the presence of their covenant God and condescending King, presenting before him their supplications.
1. With reverent humility. "Bowing themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement," as they did in the wilderness when, on Aaron's first offerings being presented, "a fire came out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat" (Le John 9:24), and as Moses and Aaron did when the former interceded for the people (Numbers 14:5), as the Israelites on Carmel (1 Kings 18:39), Christ's disciples on the holy mount (Matthew 17:6), and the four and twenty elders of the Apocalyptic vision did (Revelation 11:16). Humility a foremost characteristic of all who would approach God in prayer (Genesis 18:30), or with whom God would dwell (Isaiah 57:15).
2. With fervent acclamation. "Praising the Lord and saying;" for though prayer and praise without audible speech are not impossible (1 Samuel 1:13; Ephesians 5:19), when the heart is hot the tongue cannot well be silent (Psalms 39:3). Men that are in earnest, like David, cry and weep in their prayers (Psalms 6:8; Psalms 18:6), while in their praises they dance and sing (2 Samuel 6:14; Psalms 71:22).
3. With true faith, recognizing his Divine goodness and believing in the unchangeableness of his mercy (see on verses 13, 14).
III. THE THANKSGIVING KING. (Verses 4, 5.) Besides the people, Solomon was specially affected by the great sight. His heart swelled with gratitude, which he expressed:
1. By sacrifices. Gratitude which overflows merely in lip-service may well be suspected. The true index of a heart's feeling of indebtedness is its willingness to part with something belonging to itself for the sake of him towards whom the feeling is cherished. Hence the emphasis laid by Old Testament Scripture on the duty of offering the sacrifices of thanksgiving (Psalms 50:14; Psalms 107:22).
2. By repeated sacrifices. Solomon and his subjects had already offered victims on the altar (verse 6); but these were presented in addition because new mercies had evoked new occasions of thanksgiving. As the saint's gratitude should not be a momentary feeling, cherished for a little season and then dismissed till some more convenient opportunity shall arrive, but a perennial emotion continually welling up within the breast; so should the saint's sacrifices not be occasional acts, but deeds that are constantly being repeated and renewed.
3. By large sacrifices. Solomon offered 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep—indeed, so abundant were the victims that the brazen altar was not spacious enough, large as it was (2 Chronicles 4:1), to receive the burnt offerings and the meat offerings and the fat; yet, rather than that any of them should not be presented to the Lord, the pavement in the middle of the court was "hallowed," i.e. extemporized into an altar (verse 7), and the victims slaughtered and burnt thereupon. Solomon had no notion of being stinted in his "givings" to Jehovah. Neither should Christians in their offerings to the God of the Christian Church. The Lord still loveth a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), and never fails to reward a liberal giver (2 Corinthians 9:6).
4. By timely sacrifices. The king chose the right moment for his offerings—"then" (verse 4), when his eye was arrested and his heart affected by the sight of the fire and the glory, and by the contemplation of Jehovah's goodness and grace. Had he delayed, the offerings might not have been so numerous as they were, if indeed they had not been omitted altogether. "Strike while the iron is hot" is a proverb applicable to all good resolutions. Bis dat qui cito dat. Evil purposes should be delayed till the passions exciting them have cooled; good intentions should be carried through while the spirit glows with the holy enthusiasm that has given them birth.
IV. THE ASSISTING PRIESTS. (Verse 6.) In addition to the king and commons, the ministers of the sanctuary bore their part in the great act of worship.
1. The priests waited on their offices, or stood, in their stations—not according to their divisions (Bertheau), but in their offices (Vulgate); i.e. they preserved the ranks and functions which had been assigned them by David (1 Chronicles 24:7). They also sounded trumpets before them.
2. The Levites acted as instrumentalists and singers. They used the instruments of the song of Jehovah which David had invented and appointed, and with which David himself had praised God by their service, i.e. by making use of their playing, as he did when fetching up the ark out of Obed-edom's house (1 Chronicles 15:16-28).
1. The certainty that God can answer prayer.
2. The duty of Divine worship.
3. The joyous character of true religion.
4. The necessity of practising Christian liberality.—W.
2 Chronicles 7:8-11
A great festival.
I. THE OCCASION.
1. The dedication of the altar. Probably a part is here put for the whole. The writer means by the dedication of the altar the dedication of the whole temple. That this should have been followed by a feast was appropriate, since
(1) all labour carried to a successful termination, as the temple had been, is fitted to occasion joy; and
(2) the fact that sinful man is permitted to consecrate anything to Jehovah ought ever to excite within the heart glad emotions.
2. The Feast of Tabernacles. It would seem that the solemnities connected with the dedication were commenced seven days at least before the fifteenth of Tisri, the date of the Feast of Tabernacles, and that on the fifteenth this latter feast began, and was celebrated with unusual magnificence.
II. THE GUESTS.
1. Solomon the king. So is Christ himself ever present at the banquets he provides for his people, whether on earth within the Church militant, or in heaven in the Church triumphant. With reference to the former Christ says, "I will sup with him" (Revelation 3:16); as regards the latter it is written, "The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall be their Shepherd" (Revelation 7:17); "I will drink it," the fruit of the vine, "new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:29).
2. All Israel with him, from the entering in of Hamath, the northen boundary of Palestine, to the river of Egypt, its southern limit. So will all the followers of God, the spiritual children and subjects of the heavenly King, be admitted to the banquet of salvation, both here and there—"he with me" (Revelation 3:16).
III. THE DURATION. Seven days.
1. Preceded by a seven days' dedication service, during which the multitudes of victims were slain by the king and the people—not by the priests, who were merely employed in sprinkling the blood upon the altar.
2. Followed by a solemn assembly on the eighth day, the last and the great day of the feast (John 7:37). On the twenty-third day of the seventh month the assembly broke up, and the people returned to their homes.
IV. THE GLADNESS.
1. Its character. The people's joy was sincere, deep, and exhilarating. Not only at the termination of the festal season, but throughout its continuance, the celebrants were merry in their hearts.
2. Its cause. Different from the mirth which stirred the heart of Nabal (1 Samuel 25:36), theirs proceeded from a contemplation of Jehovah's goodness to David, who had been the originator of the temple-building scheme, to Solomon, who had carried it out, and to them who were to profit by it.
1. That national feastings are as proper to religion as national lastings.
2. That sovereigns and their subjects should at times unite in public expressions of religious feeling.
3. That good rulers are often long remembered by their people.
4. That God's goodness can be displayed to his saints long after they are dead.
5. That the greatest good a king or his people can receive from Heaven is religion, and the means of sustaining and advancing it.—W.
2 Chronicles 7:12-22
A covenant concerning the Church of God.
I. THE PARTIES.
1. The Lord. Jehovah, the supreme and self-existent Deity (Exodus 3:14), the God of nature, who can "shut up heaven," "command the locusts," "send pestilence" (2 Chronicles 7:13), as well as the God of grace, who can hear prayer, forgive sin, and heal not only land, but souls (2 Chronicles 7:14); the God of providence, who can pluck up nations by the roots, and scatter them abroad upon the face of the earth (2 Chronicles 7:20); the God of law and order, who issues statutes and commandments (2 Chronicles 7:19); the God of faithfulness and truth, who both maketh and keepeth covenant with his people (2 Chronicles 7:18); the God of believing families, who, as "the Lord God of their fathers," remembereth them the children for good (2 Chronicles 7:22); the God of justice, who is able to fulfil his threatenings as well as promises (2 Chronicles 7:20); the one living and true God, who will not tolerate the rivalry of such as are no gods (2 Chronicles 7:22).
2. Solomon the King of Israel. The prince of peace, the head and representative of his people, their intercessor and mediator, who by sacrifices and supplications interposed between them and the all-glorious Jehovah who dwelt between the cherubim; in this respect a type of Jesus Christ, the heavenly Solomon, the true Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), the King of Israel par excellence (John 1:49), the Head and Representative of the Church of God (Ephesians 1:22), the Advocate and Intercessor for his believing people (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).
II. THE BASIS. Two acts of grace on the part of Jehovah towards Solomon.
1. The acceptance of his prayer on behalf of Israel. "I have heard thy prayer" (2 Chronicles 7:12). On a similar basis Jehovah grounds his covenant with Christ concerning the Church of the New Testament, via. his acceptance of Christ's mediation and intercession—"Thou art [or, 'this is'] my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"; "Father, I know that thou hearest me always" (John 11:42).
2. The choice of his temple as a place of sacrifice. (2 Chronicles 7:12.) There can be no covenant except on a sacrificial basis (Hebrews 9:16-20). For this reason emphasis was laid upon the choice of the temple as a house of sacrifice. The "house of sacrifice" in the new covenant was the temple of Christ's body (John 2:21; Hebrews 10:19, Hebrews 10:20).
III. THE PROMISES.
1. For the people. That penitential prayer, accompanied with an earnest seeking of the Divine favour, and a genuine work of reformation among them, should be followed by forgiveness and its attendant signs (2 Chronicles 7:14).
2. For the temple. That God's heart should be there perpetually (2 Chronicles 7:16), that his eyes should be open towards it, and his ears attest unto whatever prayer should in future years be made in it (2 Chronicles 7:15). So God still engages to observe every suppliant and hear every prayer made to him in Christ's Name, or with an eye to his atoning sacrifice; because his eyes and his heart are ever on the Son.
3. For the king. That God would establish his throne according to the covenant made with David, that the throne of Israel should never want a ruler (2 Chronicles 7:18); always provided that he, the king, followed in the footsteps of David, doing all God commanded him, and observing God's statutes and judgments.
IV. THE THREATENINGS. All covenants have penalties attached to them to be inflicted as alternatives in case the covenanting party or parties fail to implement the condition on which alone the promise or promises can be bestowed (see Genesis 2:17). Here the penalties for disobedience were explicit, if severe.
1. For the king. Failure of the royal line, which would terminate with himself or with a near descendant. This a clear deduction from the terms of the Davidic covenant.
2. For the people. Plucking up by the roots from the land of their inheritance, and dispersion among the nations of the earth as a proverb and a byword (2 Chronicles 7:20).
3. For the temple. Destruction and desolation, which should make of its lofty wails an astonishment to every one that passeth by.
1. That God's promises of grace and salvation are all conditioned by the faith and obedience of those who receive them.
2. That God's threatenings are as certain of fulfilment as his promises.
3. That God's judgments can always vindicate themselves to those who reverently inquire concerning them.—W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13