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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
2 Chronicles 3

 

 

Verses 1-17

2 Chronicles 3:1-17.

1. Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father [rather, "which was shown to David his father"], in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Oman [or, Araunah. See 2 Samuel 24:18; 1 Chronicles 21:18] the Jebusite.

2. And he began to build in the second day [omit "day;" many commentators would also omit "in the second." The verse would then run thus: "And he began to build in the second month in the fourth year of his reign" (comp. 1 Kings 6:1)] of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign.

3. Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed [Heb. founded] for the building of the house of God" [The passage should be thus translated: "Now this is the ground-plan of Solomon for the building of the house of God. The length by cubits after the first measure was threescore cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits.

4. And the porch that was in the front of the house, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the height was an hundred and twenty [This differs considerably from 1 Kings 6:2. The true reading Isaiah , beyond any reasonable doubt: "And the height was twenty cubits "]: and he overlaid it within with pure gold.

5. And the greater house [i.e, the holy place, or main chamber of the temple, intervening between the porch and the holy of holies] he ceiled with fir tree [rather, "he covered" or "lined." The reference is not to the ceiling, which was entirely of wood, but to the walls and floor, which were of stone, with a covering of planks (see 1 Kings 6:15-18)], which he overlaid with fine gold, and set thereon palm trees and chains. [The ornamentation of the temple walls with palm trees is noticed in 1 Kings 6:29. "Chains" are not there mentioned.]

6. And he garnished [Heb. covered] the house with precious stones for beauty: and the gold was gold of Parvaim [This word does not occur elsewhere in Scripture. It has generally been taken for the name of a place; but what place is quite uncertain].

7. He overlaid also the house [still the holy place, or great chamber of the temple], the beams, the posts, and the walls thereof, and the doors thereof, with gold: and graved cherubims on the walls.

8. And he made the most holy house, the length whereof was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits: and he overlaid it with fine gold, amounting to six hundred talents.

9. And the weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold. And he overlaid the upper chambers with gold.

10. And in the most holy house he made two cherubims of image [or, as some think, of movable] work, and overlaid them with gold.

11. And the wings of the cherubims [comp. 1 Kings 6:24-27] were twenty cubits long: one wing of the one cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was likewise five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub.

12. And one wing of other cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was five cubits also, joining to the wing of the other cherub.

13. The wings of these cherubims spread themselves forth twenty cubits: and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward [Literally, "their faces were toward the house." Instead of looking towards one another, with heads bent downward over the mercy-seat, like the cherubs of Moses ( Exodus 37:9), these of Solomon looked out from the sanctuary into the great chamber, here as elsewhere often called κατ᾿ ἐξοχὴν, "the house."]

14. And he made the vail [an important addition to the description in Kings, where the vail is not mentioned] of blue, and purple, and crimson [i.e, exactly the same colours as the vail of the tabernacle ( Exodus 26:31)], and fine linen, and wrought [Literally, caused to ascend] cherubims thereon.

15. Also he made before the house two pillars of thirty and five cubits high, and the chapiter that was on the top of each of them was five cubits.

16. And he made chains, as in the oracle, and put them on the heads of the pillars; and made an hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains.

17. And he reared [ 1 Kings 7:21] up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin ["He shall establish "], and the name of that on the left Boaz ["In it is strength "].

The Building of the Temple

"Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

"And he began to build in the second day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign" ( 2 Chronicles 3:1-2).

WE do not want commonplace diaries. If diaries were commonplace they could be done without; it is because they are special that they acquire their uniqueness and their value. Who could do without memorable days, hours never to be forgotten, occasions that focalise a lifetime, red-letter days? They help us to live the rest of the time. The week may be barren, exacting, difficult of management, but a sweet Sabbath, a day right royal in its engagements and in its enjoyments, helps us through the six days with the sublety, the grace, and the comfort of an inspiration. Have we not all had memorable days?—the day when the boy left home, the second day of the second month, in the fifteenth year of his age. He can never know what emptiness he left behind him. The people he left professed to smile, and laughed a glad laugh, but they had a sore time of it after the boy had left. The day when the young man finds his first friend in business, the head that can direct him, the hand strong enough to give him assurance of protection, the voice all strength and music that charmed his fears away, and gave him consciousness of latent possibilities of his own; the day when the young man got his first practical hold of life and business,—how much he made in his first little profit, his introductory return, the very first sovereign he honestly made by his own wits and energy; he never could have another sovereign with so many shillings in it as that,—it was in the second day of the second month, in the twentieth year of his age. He thought he would send it home to be looked at; he imagined that in the little village he had left that sovereign would create quite a sensation. Yet he dare not trust it out of his sight. Six times a day he examined it to feel that it was real metal and no painted gold: for he made it, his labour won it, and he accepts it as an assurance that God will not forsake him. Do not let all days be alike; save yourselves from so running one day into another as to drop the dignity, the accent, and the significance of special occasions. Nor turn these occasions into opportunities for mere sentimentality. There is another boy leaving home, there is another youth wanting a first friend, there is another struggler panting to win the first prize. By the memory of what you did in the second day of the second month, in the twentieth year of your age, stop, and help him who hath no helper.

"Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God" ( 2 Chronicles 3:3).

The building of the temple is a striking example of life-building. Instead of saying Solomon began to build a temple, say Solomon began to build a life, and all that he did will fall into its proper place, and every item in the specification will be useful. It is folly to build a temple if you are not building a life. It aggravates the mischief of life to be doing some good things, and leaving the best things undone. Better do nothing, better be a whole fool and absolute, than be so wise in little points as to turn all the rest of life into practical madness. "Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed:" literally, Now this is the ground-plan. So many people are building without a ground-plan. It would seem as if they were attempting to perform the impossibility of building from the top; they have no foundations, no great principles, no settled, vital, unchangeable convictions; there is a brick here, and a stone there, and a beam of wood yonder,—but there is no grand scheme, no grasp, no plan approved by architectural experience. "Solomon was instructed." Then Solomon was not a born builder,—that is to say, a man who needed no instruction, no hint, no apprenticeship, in these things. He was a man who began with instruction. Who does not feel that he is wholly independent of education in the matter of life-building? Man often makes himself the victim of a phrase; so he claims the right of private judgment, the right of individual conscience. Noble words when nobly used, when used wisely in the scheme of life; but if made to minister to conceit, to the individualism which is solitude, and to the solitude which is atheistic, then there is no right in the matter from beginning to end, it is vanity, and wind, and folly. A man is none the worse for having his little book of instructions in his pocket when he goes abroad. The book is not a large one in mere superficies, but who can declare in arithmetical numbers its cubical contents? Every line is a volume; every sentence is a time-bill; every proposition is a philosophy. Even Solomon accepted instruction. It is never wise to be beyond a hint, beyond the counsel of experience, or beyond the encouragement of men who have done a great deal of life-building and who know all the difficulties of the situation.

Solomon began well: what wonder if he continue well! He said he would start life with the dowry of wisdom. Then he could never be poor. Men could spend all the stars if they were sovereigns: they can never spend the inheritance of wisdom; the more you utilise it the more it becomes; it is a kind of bread which grows in the breaking of it, so that having fed five thousand men you have whole basketfuls of fragments to take up, and you perform the arithmetical miracle of having more at the end than you had at the beginning. Give a spendthrift the universe in golden coins, and he will stand at the other end of it a pauper, and will be wholly unable to tell you how he spent the money. Wisdom is wealth. Knowledge is power. To have a real philosophy of life—not an outward mechanism of it, but a vital conception of its meaning and its purpose—is to be really rich. Men should set themselves down and ask some questions:—What is life? How long is it? How much is there of it? At what counter is this gold to be spent? Were men to ask questions so far-reaching and much-involving there would indeed be a revival of religion, because there would be a revival of common-sense, a revival of practical philosophy, a revival of truest wisdom. But men perish for the want of a plan; they do not know where they begin, or in what course they are going. What wonder if experience has written as its proverb, The chapter of accidents is the Bible of the fool? No accidents could happen to Song of Solomon , because he started at the right point; accepted the true definition of life, function, and faculty; and walked in the light of wisdom. If it happened that Solomon should ever trifle with that light, conceal it, modify it, despise it, he would go to the devil. No matter though he had built a thousand temples he would land in perdition if he ceased to walk in the ways of wisdom. No man can build himself up to heaven, however many temples he may build: he must build up from within, build up in the matter of conviction, principles, life, character; he must blossom into purity, he must fructify into love; he must breathe himself into heaven by the power and grace of God. Men are not dragged into heaven against their will: they grow in grace and knowledge and liberty, and they are in heaven almost imperceptibly. Let every man take heed how he useth Wisdom of Solomon , and let him take heed especially who imagines that his feet cannot slip.

Sometimes we wish that we had a rehearsal of life; and that we might come back and begin at the beginning, and walk in the light of experience. Some men have thought to amend Providence in these arrangements; thus: suppose a man could live until thirty years of age a kind of rehearsal life, trying life, tasting its various cups, walking in its various ways, ascertaining the key or clue to the labyrinth, and then coming back and beginning, so that we might live after the manner dictated and justified by experience. There is no need of it; there is something better than experience, something infinitely preferable. What is that something? Revelation. The whole map is laid out; every man may tell exactly where he is at any moment If men will close the specification and begin to build after their own invention, what wonder if they should be ashamed of their own architecture and never trust themselves to the roof of their own building? If men will close the book, and abandon the instructions and play at being God on their own account, what wonder if we should find them next in a swamp? Life has been lived, right away down to old age. There is nothing unfamiliar in life; we find it in infancy, in youth, and in manhood; in business, in literature, in pleasure; in selfishness, in nobility; in misanthropy, in philanthropy; we find it in old age, we find it struggling with death: what more do we want? All the sea has been marked out, the chart is plainly written—here is a rock, there a reef, yonder a dangerous whirl of water,—if men will leave the chart at home, and throw the compass overboard, who will pity their fate should they be lost at sea? The Christian claims that the whole map or chart of life is to be found in the Book of God; and so it is. There is nothing fantastic in the claim. If there were no spiritual philosophy in it, it overflows with common-sense. It is a treasure-house of experience. So there need be no pensive desire for a trial-trip in the ways of life. All the dead say, they will accompany us; all hell says that it would come with us if it could to prevent our going to that place of torment. Not only living teachers, frail as ourselves, but the innumerable dead,—wise as philosophy, foolish as madness,—all want to go with the young traveller, and to tell him what waters to drink, what food to avoid, what herbs to pluck for healing, what gates to open upon larger spaces for cultivation and ownership. No man needs go the life-road alone. Every stone is known, every footprint is identified, and the lifting of a hand is foretold with infinite precision. Everything now is in weights and scales and balances and standards, and no man can be at any uncertainty as to the value of a thought or the issue of a volition. Let revelation take the place of rehearsal.

Solomon had a definite purpose in view,—he was building a temple. Definiteness of purpose economises time, enables strength to issue in the noblest accomplishments; want of definiteness means frivolity, extravagance, or selfishness, or narrowness of policy, certainly it means ultimate disappointment and mortification. We cannot all build the same kind of building. Each man is appointed to carry out his own particular work: let each see that he make his calling and election sure. Sometimes we may be working at various points of the same temple. There is a great law of combination and cooperation, so that every man"s work should be of no value in itself, but when all the work is brought together and fashioned in its first and its ulterior meaning, then every man has glory or satisfaction in his own particular contribution. Take any instrument; divide its construction into a dozen sections; let each labour according to his own particular skill and experience: let each hold up the part which he has done, and there is no value in any one part: bring them together by a master hand, bring them into accord, then the angel of music will descend to dwell in that tabernacle, to speak through every door and window, and make a wide circle glad with heaven"s joy. So we cannot sometimes tell what we are doing. We have to wait until the master brings all the work together; then some who have been working in the dark, hardly knowing what they have been doing, will see that they have been making unconscious contributions to life"s organ, to life"s temple. A man will have good reason to know what he is doing if he pay attention to Providence. There need not be so much darkness in the ways of life as is often supposed.

"And in the most holy house he made two cherubims of image work" ( 2 Chronicles 3:10).

That was bold, yet it was necessary. We must paint, we must have pictures; if we cannot have reds and golds and blues and subtle mixtures of hue, we must have black and white. It is in us that we should have something beautiful to look at. Solomon had graved or painted cherubims. Think of painted wings; what mockeries! wings that never stirred, never fluttered, never warmed themselves in the waiting sun. The Church is full of these wings now, painted wings, painted cherubim. We have not these names, but we have other names that we idolize. We have now painted creeds: how astonishingly hideous they look! they are painted on the walls in blue, shaded with gilt,—"I believe in God." Is that a painted creed? Yes. A painted wing is an intolerable offence to the imagination, but a painted faith, who can bear it? If it stand there as a mere symbol, it may be beautiful; if it mean that what is painted on the wall is painted with blood in the life, let it stand: the eye may help the fancy and the soul; but if our creed be only painted, it is as a painted wing: you will always find it where you left it—a wing that cannot flutter, much less fly, a wing that is useless in every aspect. The poet says—

So with our painted faiths. If our creed be not in our heart it will be as a millstone round about our neck. We have painted resolutions. They are the gallery which, if it were to be sold at a pound a foot, would make the Church a millionaire. What resolutions the Church has passed—and forgotten!

Solomon having carried forward the temple so far,

"He reared up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz" ( 2 Chronicles 3:17).

There is wonderful suggestion of strength in a pillar. What dignity, too, that straight line has! Who can look at a pillar and be unmoved? To some blind eyes it is nothing, but to those whose eyes are in their heads, what is signified by its uprightness, its solidity, its obvious utility, its preparedness to stand there and take the risks of the building upon it? Mr. Ruskin says that not only must a pillar be strong, it must look strong. That gives men confidence in a public building. A pillar an inch in diameter might be perfectly sufficient for its work, but it does not look sufficient. All God"s building is manifestly established, strong, solid; the very gossamer which God weaves is more enduring than a plate of steel. "The foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." And yet on the top of the pillars we find lily-work, little tufts of beauty; so that we must not only have utility, but decoration. Beauty has a great part to play in the ministry of life. Little flowers come and go, but they always come as gospels, and leave behind them a sense of benediction. So it is in great character. Men may be too severe in their righteousness. They may be of that quality which men like to admire through a telescope, but which no little child would ever come near were there any other road to fly away by. Add to your faith until you reach brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness add charity—a great pillar, with a capital of beauty. We cannot live upon severity, we cannot feast upon righteousness; and we cannot live without truth and without uprightness. In Christ we find strength and beauty.

Solomon did one thing which is of infinite significance,—Solomon having finished his building brought up the ark. It was a new building, but it was an old ark. You cannot make two arks. Some things are done once for all. So in life we may have new situations, but the old truth; new churches, but the old Bible. No man may publish a supplement to the Bible: he may plant its acorns, and grow them into oaks; he may sow flowers, and grow them into new paradises of beauty; but a new temple with a new Bible would be an intolerable novelty—it would be too new. See Solomon"s temple, which he spoke of in terms that to our modern conceptions of building are almost fabulous, but see within that magical fabric the old ark—the ark that had seen the wilderness and seen the battle, and gone through all the varieties of an eventful fortune; yet there it stood, still the treasure-house of the heart, still the light of the Church, still the security of the spiritual kingdom upon the earth. But even here we find encouragement to persevere, for even here we may have novelty and antiquity—a new head-dress, but the old philosophies inhabiting the brain, and taking possession and dominion of the soul and ruling it with gentle sway. We may have a new house, larger than the last by many a room, even by story upon story, for our last house was a little one, and our present house is an ample habitation, the one a habi-taculum, the other a palace, but in both the old Bible, the old ark, the old commandments, the old mercy-seat. If you had encouragement to proceed, you could build elaborately, and prove your earnestness by your expenditure. Solomon so proved his enthusiasm. He kept back nothing. And he sent to heathen nations to send in all they could gather. But he never sent to them to furnish him with an ark; he never said, If you can find me a new altar, a new God, a new faith, I should be obliged to you. The temple was nothing until the ark was put into it: the church is nothing until the Bible is read in it: then every stone is consecrated, the roof is a sky. So it must be in all life; we must have wisdom to start with, instruction to proceed with, enthusiasm attested by expenditure, strength and beauty, establishment and direction, and within all our novelties we must have the eternal, the unchangeable ark, the verity that submits to no modification, the law that grows into love, the righteousness clothed with garments of mercy. Let men who have hitherto been acting the part that is foolish take up the policy that is wise. Have a programme or ground-plan of life, a brief creed and yet an infinite faith: having some things that cannot be exchanged for gold, and compared with which rubies would be worthless dust. What will the end be of a man who adopts this course? The end will be a living temple, a divine ark,--music, peace, joy, infinite contentment.

Prayer

We have not come to the mount that might be touched and that burned with fire, but we have come unto mount Zion, the city of the living God, and unto the blood of Jesus. By that holy sacrifice we have all things that are good, the nourishment of our soul, and the education of all our faculties, and our preparation for all things yet to come. Without the cross we have nothing; with thy cross, thou Son of God, we have all things, and we abound. We know that if God spared not his only begotten Song of Solomon , there was nothing he would not give; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. We do not accept the cross as the end of God"s gifts, but as the seal and pledge of all; because he gave Christ, he will give all things: because Christ died for us, he rose again: if he had died otherwise, he would not have known the resurrection; but now, thou blessed Son of Prayer of Manasseh , thou art our Priest, our Intercessor, our Advocate and Comforter; thou art able to save unto the uttermost; thine is not a partial power, thou dost possess the resources of almightiness, we are safe in the arms of Christ; no man should be able to pluck the flock out of the Father"s hand, for in that hand is all the mystery of omnipotence. So we rest in these sweet doctrines, we abide in the sanctuary of these eternal facts; no storm can reach us, no enemy can expel us from the asylum of the divine protection. We abide with Christ, Christ abides with us; he turns the twilight into noonday, and noonday he increases sevenfold. Thou hast kept the good wine until now; we have never tasted the best which thou hast to give, thou hast always something more, something better, something larger, and towards this fuller possession thou art calling us by every bright event of thy providence, and by every pathetic strain of thy cross: thou hast kept us all these years; there is not a moment that is not a jewel given to us by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Forbid that we should become so familiar with the goodness as to be indifferent to it; may thy mercy be a daily surprise, may the tenderness of the living and loving God amaze us by an unexpected revelation. Thus may we live in sweet excitement, in well-controlled rapture, in that elevation of soul which is the best preparation for the service of others. Enrich us with all wisdom; give us enlargement and penetration of understanding; help thy Church so to read the signs of the times as to know what Israel ought to do, and when thy Church knows its duty may it throw away all fear and selfish calculation, and with the courage of righteousness go forth under the banners of God. For all family life and love and comfort we bless thee; for the laughter of children, for the merriment that knows no anxiety, for all the hope and cheer and gladness of household Song of Solomon , for the table spread in the wilderness, for the cup which we have not yet exhausted, we bless the Lord with a warm heart and a loud voice: thou hast filled the right hand with plentifulness, and in our left hand is abundance, and on our head is the diadem of grace. Blessing and honour and glory and power and thanksgiving, louder than the roar of seas be unto the living Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, for all his compassion and all his protection. Give the old man to feel that in Christ there is no old age that is not the beginning of youth, and give the least child to feel that he is in a world that is warmed by the sun of heavenly love. Enter our sick-chambers, and they shall become disinfected; look upon our dying, and they shall live; smile upon our ill-understood grief, and it shall break forth into dimples of laughter and joy. Be we all holy men, all noble institutions, all blessed endeavours and enterprises to enlarge the illumination of the world and hasten its reconciliation to God. Thus may we ever be in God"s temple because we are ever at Christ"s cross. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 3:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/2-chronicles-3.html. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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