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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
2 Chronicles 4

 

 

Verses 1-22

2 Chronicles 4

1. Moreover he made an altar [the place of this altar was in the great court, as is evident from 2 Chronicles 6:12-13] of brass, twenty cubits the length thereof, and twenty cubits the breadth thereof, and ten cubits the height thereof.

2. Also he made a molten sea [a gigantic laver for the ablution of the priests, corresponding to the laver of brass in the tabernacle ( Exodus 30:18-21; Exodus 38:8)] of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.

3. And under it was the similitude of oxen [for "oxen" we find in 1 Kings 7:24, "knops" or "gourds." It is evident that the one word may easily have been mistaken for the other], which did compass it round about: ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about. Two rows of oxen were cast, when it was cast.

4. It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking towards the north, and three looking towards the west, and three looking towards the south, and three looking towards the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.

5. And the thickness of it was an handbreath, and the brim of it like the work of the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies [or, like a lily flower]; and it received and held three thousand baths.

6. He made also ten lavers [according to 1 Kings 7:38, these stood upon ten brazen stands, i.e, chests provided with carriage wheels. These stands, the artistic work on which is circumstantially described in 1 Kings 7:27-37, are omitted in the Chronicle, because they are merely subordinate parts of the lavers], and put five on the right hand, and five on the left, to wash in them: such things as they offered for the burnt offering they washed in them; but the sea was for the priests to wash in.

7. And he made ten candlesticks [comp. 1 Kings 7:49. Whether these ten candlesticks were to supersede the one seven-lighted candlestick made for the tabernacle ( Exodus 25:31-40; Exodus 37:17-26), or were to be used in addition to it, we are not told, The latter supposition Isaiah , however, far more probable] of gold according to their form [rather, "after their manner," an abbreviated phrase intended to express what is more fully stated in 2 Chronicles 4:20—"that they should burn after the manner before the oracle." There is no allusion to the shape of the candlesticks], and set them in the temple, five on the right hand, and five on the left.

8. He made also ten tables, and placed them in the temple, five on the right side, and five on the left. And he made an hundred basons of gold.

9. Furthermore he made the court of the priests, and the great court, and doors for the court, and overlaid the doors of them with brass.

10. And he set the sea on the right side of the east end, over against the south.

11. And Huram made the pots, and the shovels, and the basons [or, bowls]. And Huram finished [Heb. finished to make] the work that he was to make for king Solomon for the house of God;

12. To wit, the two pillars, and the pommels, and the chapiters which were on the top of the two pillars, and the two wreaths to cover the two pommels of the chapiters which were on the top of the pillars;

13. And four hundred pomegranates on the two wreaths; two rows of pomegranates on each wreath, to cover the two pommels of the chapiters which were upon the [Heb. upon the face of the] pillars.

14. He made also bases, and lavers [or, cauldrons] made he upon the bases;

15. One sea, and twelve oxen under it.

16. The pots also, and the shovels, and the fleshhooks and all their instruments, did Huram his father [rather, "Huram his master-workman "] make to king Solomon for the house of the Lord of bright brass.

17. In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredathah.

18. Thus Solomon made all these vessels in great abundance: for the weight of the brass could not be found out.

19. And Solomon made all the vessels that were for the house of God, the golden altar also, and the tables whereon the shewbread was set;

20. Moreover the candlesticks with their lamps, that they should burn after the manner [i.e, "according to the ordinary custom." The law had commanded the burning of a light continually before the vail of the Holy of Holies ( Exodus 27:20-21; Leviticus 24:2-3); and the ordinance had, it appears, been constantly observed] before the oracle, of pure gold;

21. And the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs [parts of the candlestick mentioned in Exodus 25:31-37, Exodus 25:38; the "flowers" being the ornaments of the stem and branches, the "lamps" being the seven lights, and the "tongs" being used for trimming], made he of gold, and that perfect gold;

22. And the snuffers, and the basons, and the spoons, and the censers, of pure gold: and the entry of the house, the inner doors thereof for the most holy place, and the doors of the house of the temple, were of gold.

Solomon"s Specifications

SURELY Solomon is doing something? There is a great rush of business, there is a marvellous outline of a specification in this chapter. What a programme it Isaiah , taking it altogether, and in the contextual portions; something important must be doing now, something indispensable: kings are busy, princes are bending their necks, people of all statures and ages and faculties are on the alert. "Send me also cedar trees, fir trees, and algum trees, out of Lebanon... prepare me timber in abundance: for the house which I am about to build shall be wonderful great." What a host of men! Threescore and ten thousand of them bearers of burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountain, and three thousand six hundred overseers to set the people at work. Nothing was pinched, nothing was begrudged. The porch was overlaid with pure gold, the greater house was ceiled with fir tree, which was overlaid with fine gold, and thereon were set palm trees and chains; and the house was garnished with precious stones for beauty: and the gold was gold of Parvaim. The house, the beams, the posts, the walls, the doors were overlaid with gold, and on the walls cherubims were graved.

The question we have to ask after reading all this table of luxury Isaiah , What does it amount to? That is the subject What is the use of it all? This is not a merely or roughly utilitarian question; it is a high spiritual inquiry. Nor is the interrogation limited to the house that Solomon built; it applies to the house which every man is building. What is the use of your grandeur? What does it all come to when it is added up and set down in plain utility like an arithmetical statement at the foot? This is an admirable description of many men we know, or of whom we have heard or read: they are all specification. Here is a man who has been five years at Oxford, five years at Edinburgh, five years at Berlin, and he has brought with him innumerable certificates and credentials and assurances that he has passed with success and honour through almost illimitable courses of training. Let us hear him speak. It is well we were told that he had studied at all these universities, for we never should have gathered it from his conversation. Here is a student of aesthetics; a false colour would kill him; he understands the relation of one hue to another; he has been trained to distinguish one tinge from another as if his eye were a jealous microscope. What does it come to outside of colour? What about his patience, his civility, his chivalry, his courtesy, his sacrifice on behalf of others? What does it amount to but a painter"s specification? We must have totals, results, positive and beneficial consequences; else our schools are only helping to extend the veneer, and not the real oak of the world. Here is a man of polish: he would not even call upon a friend except within conventional hours; nothing would tempt him to pay a visit to his oldest bosom friend without a proper supply of pasteboard and lithography: what does it come to when he must sit up with a dying child, or pinch himself one meal a day that a man in another street may have something for his hunger? These are penetrating, these are decimating questions; they hurl down our little card-houses, conventionalities, and aesthetics, and polishes, and certifications, and make us poor indeed, if there be not at the heart of us a Christly polish, a Christly education, a miracle of regeneration and comfort. Take care not to grind the knife all away before you cut a piece of bread with it. What a long time some men have been grinding their knives! There will be nothing but haft presently; the blade will have disappeared into or out of the grindstone. What we ought to have from some men when they do come forward! Should they not have pity upon us and reveal themselves gradually? Ought they not to pity the gourd, and see that the flash of such lightning as would be emitted by their genius might be dangerous to the frail plant? What gifts we must have when some men begin to give! they are going to begin by-and-by.

About all grandeur, about all cedar, and fir and algum, about all gold of Parvaim, and graved cherubim, and wondrous scholarship, and night and day preparation extending through years, we ask, What is the use of it? Bring a million bricks into a huge meadow, stack them up, add hundreds of tons of iron, add a mile or two of plate glass, set down colours mixed by the skilled hands of artists: what does it all come to? It all amounts to a nuisance; we used to walk through that field until that pile was laid upon it. On the other hand, put the material together, let the architect lay his mind to the question, and the builder put out his hands, and the glazier do his work, and the artist come to distribute the colours properly, and then out of what was a mere chaotic pile there is shaped a useful home or sacred temple. Get out of your specification; build something: do something: better dry a child"s tear than lie back half a century in order to get ready to deliver a speech which nobody can understand. When does the decoration become life? When may we expect those beauteous figures to speak? Never. The decoration does not make the temple; the preparation does not make the workman; he must come out of that, utilising it all and sanctifying it by the grace of God. A man might dress in the robes of the lord chancellor, and actually sit down on the woolsack, and not be a lawyer. This is extremely irritating, that a man cannot by putting on certain robes become learned and influential and reputed as an authority. A fine house cannot make a fine tenant; a first-class carriage cannot make a first-class traveller; a man might sit down on a monarch"s throne, and not be a sovereign; he might even look like a king, and be only a clown. Decoration is useless, if it does not express something beyond itself, something spiritual, ideal, transcendental. The picture is nothing if it does not in reality speak, not indeed to the ear of the body, but to the attention of the soul. It is an amusing irony to see some people clothed in purple and fine linen, because there is really no connection between them and their clothes; we expect them to speak musically, and lo! their tones fill our mouths as with gravel-stones. We expect a man to be at least as elegant as his clothes, and when he is not we do not blame the garments; it is more their misfortune than their fault that they should be where they are. So when we read the specification of temples and palaces we say, What does it amount to? What is this grandeur worth in helping and blessing the world? What is civilisation to end in?

This specification may be taken as a step in the history of civilisation, and according to this outline civilisation probably never reached a higher pitch. Buying and selling luxuries does no general good. That seems to be very singular, but science, reading history, has put that down as a conclusion that cannot be challenged. Specifications of this kind do no good to the people as a whole. The possession of luxury leads to surfeit. It is on record that at the time of the great French Revolution never was luxury so abundant, never was poverty so extreme. The feast of the great man had no crumbs for the poor man"s hunger. The world would never be the richer were half of it turned into ground for the growing of champagne, and were the other half of the world peopled by a thousand men who could consume it all. You never touch the poor through the medium of luxury. You must work upon another line, a line of utility, actual beneficence: through wheat, not through grapes, will you touch the whole world. This is the doctrine of the latest civilisation. Suppose that all over the world men could read and write: what then? Has a man ever asked himself that question seriously? Suppose that all over the world men could play a musical instrument: what then? Suppose that all over the globe men could paint: what then? Suppose that all over the world every man had ten millions of gold a-year: what then? Suppose every man in the world should forget how to walk because he could ride in a chariot of feathers and purple, and be drawn on by six cream-coloured horses: what then? It would be a sad world to live in. There is nothing in civilisation, except as it is controlled, inspired, used by a master"s hand for the good of the whole world. I am not sure that every man would be perfectly happy if he could paint a picture; I am not aware that unhappiness is confined to those who cannot read and write. These chapters are parts of a developing civilisation, and we have a right to ask as we pass through them, What is the use of this grandeur? To what purpose will it be turned? What is our education to end in? An educated man who does not turn his education to the benefit of others is an altogether undesirable person. He kills the preacher, because he knows that the man is just educated enough to be able to find fault, and is not sufficiently educated to be able to appreciate. Some persons have been sufficiently trained to be annoyed by the mistakes of other people, but not sufficiently developed to see even in those mistakes the beginning of possible excellences. Herein is that saying true,—

What is true of a little learning is true of what may be termed the larger learning, were it not in reality little by its very largeness, because it is not put out to use. You will never know the talent you have until you begin to spend it. Talent grows by expenditure; wealth increases by distribution. When a man keeps his talent and does not use it, the act of unfaithfulness recoils upon himself and assures his position in nothing but in outer darkness. To complete the material we must ascend into the spiritual. All outward civilisation is mockery if it help not towards and if it do not express an inward refinement. It is sad to think how some houses are greater than their occupiers; it is shameful to see a man outshone by his own mahogany. A man should always be greater than anything he has. The architect who draws out one specification, should always be able to draw out a much larger one. The great engineer Brunei was asked if there were not impossibilities to engineering, and he said, "There is only one." What is that? "Want of money." Give Brunei money, and he would make a way up to the moon, or try to do it. A man ought never to have a book in his library that does not express a want of the soul. Yet some men order their libraries by the square foot, and have them bound "uniformly." A book should be part of its owner; he should feel himself half naked if any volume were taken from its shelf.

Even Solomon"s temple was nothing until it was consecrated; then it became sacred, a touchstone by which men might try their spiritual quality, an entrance gate into heaven. It is the same with all other phases and aspects and uses of life. A man is nothing until he is utilised. How many unfulfilled prophecies there are in human life. A boy has taken all the prizes, he has brought them all home, shaken them out of his lap, and you never hear any more of him. What are his prizes? Reproaches, rebukes: by his prizes he shall be condemned. Another boy is of slower growth, and all he has brought home from school is—himself. But you cannot look at that square head without expecting that by-and-by you will ask, "Where are the nine that took the prizes?" That boy you cannot keep down; he grows; when he is asleep he is growing, and one day he will be king. We must be judged by the result. A man may know many languages, and never say a word worth hearing in any of them.

What is the use of grandeur, what is the purpose of education, what is the outcome of all this gathering of material? Oh Song of Solomon , oh Huram, say what meaneth this accumulation of cedar, and fir, and algum, and gold, and colours? and they reply, The meaning is a temple. The temple is built, God accepts it, and therefore the civilisation is justified and crowned. What is the use of your gathered gold? You will want a larger safe. What a glorious idea to have a house that is all safe; the front door iron, and the windows iron, and the roof iron, so that everything within it should be protected. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." Have a hundred banks that grant no passbooks and are utterly without cheque forms: have a hundred families to whom you send a portion whenever you can; they cannot recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. Drop thy silver fork as it puts that last lump of luxury into thy gluttonous mouth; sell it, give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven. Sacrifice is but a superstition until the heavens accept it by fire. We should only gather that we may scatter. If any man gather the wheat of the world and lock it up in garners and see men starve, his eyes should be torn out.

Prayer

Almighty God, we believe in thy Son Jesus Christ our only Saviour, infinite in power, and infinite in grace, thine only begotten Son that dwelleth in the bosom of the Father. He became flesh, and dwelt among us: and he told us that if we prayed unto thee we should receive answers great, tender, ample. We rest upon his word, we are sure that he who was the truth told us that which is true, and will not change his word, or add to it, or take away from it; we stand upon it, and watch and treasure it. Thy Son told us to ask, and we should receive: what shall we ask? We will simply ask that thy will be done, that is all prayers in one cry. We know not what we need, we only know what we want: but what we want is but the thought of our thoughtlessness, what we need is real. Thou knowest what we need: some need poverty, affliction, bereavement, chastening of pride, rebuke of of vanity; some need comfort, cheer, encouragement, a whispering of love that can revive the heart; some need greater grace; all need more of thy Holy Spirit. What we need do thou give in thy Son"s name, for thy Son"s sake, and at thy Son"s cross. That is the altar at which we pray; it is sprinkled with redeeming blood, it is the mystery of creation, it is the one way to heaven because to pardon and to peace. We pray then, Thy will be done. Make us strong enough to bear the doing of it: it may trouble us much; it may blind us when we are looking at beauty, it may deafen us when we are listening to the voice that charms us most: still, Thy will be done. Thou hast shown thy children great and sore trouble; but each has come out of the cloud or the storm, saying, It was good for me that I was afflicted: before I was afflicted I went astray. Thou hast given some of thy children great power and honour and means of many kinds: may they realise their stewardship, and act as the trustees of Christ. Bless all noble hearts, prosper all noble purposes, send a blight upon all deceit and vanity, and as for all wickedness do thou drive it down to hell. Amen.

 


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

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, June 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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