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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
1 Kings 6

 

 

Verses 1-38

THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE

(vs.1-38)

The date of the beginning of the temple is given specifically in verse 1 as the 480th year after Israel had left Egypt, which was the 4th year of Solomon's reign, in the month Ziv, the second month of the year (v.1). All that time was required before Israel attained the zenith of their power and splendor. Sadly, it did not last very long - yet it was a fulfillment of God's promise to Israel that He would take Israel from Egypt and establish them in great blessing in the land of promise. The permanent fulfillment of this promise awaits the coming of the Messiah in power and glory, when He will establish Israel in millennial blessing.

The size of the temple was comparatively small, though its splendor was unsurpassed. The temple was 60 by 20 cubits and 30 cubits high (v.2). The vestibule at the front was additional to this, spanning the 20 cubits width and extending ten cubits outward (v.3). The cubit is understood to be between 18 and 22 inches. Surrounding the main building on all sides except the front there were chambers built three stories high, the lower rooms only 5 cubits wide, the middle six cubits and the upper seven cubits (vs.5-6). Their other dimensions are not given.

There was nothing like this in the tabernacle, for the tabernacle symbolizes God's dwelling among a pilgrim people on earth, who had tents rather than any settled dwelling place. The temple pictures the Father's house in heaven. In the temple, however, there could only be a limited number of rooms used by the priests, who were serving in the temple at a given time. But the Lord Jesus says, "In My Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2). Thus the type is only a faint picture of the reality. The Lord is virtually saying there is room for all His redeemed people there. The word for "mansions" is better translated "abodes," permanent dwelling places. All believers will have their place there, for all are priests of God and in glory will function in the full capacity of priests, mainly in offering up spiritual sacrifices to God.

Verse 7 informs us that when the stones were quarried they were completely finished at the quarry, formed to exact size to fit in place, so that no hammer, chisel or other tool was heard in the actual building. This required remarkable skill. It pictures the skill of the Lord Jesus in hewing out sinners from the caverns of sin and fitting them perfectly for use in the house of God He is building today, the Church. The work goes on quietly but effectively, with no fanfare or ostentation. The world over the Lord is adding to the Church daily those who are being saved.

The doorway for the stairs up to the second and third floors was on the right side (v.8). Since no other door for the upstairs is mentioned, it seems that there must have been a hallway on the three sides, connecting all the rooms. Each of the rooms was 5 cubits high (v.10), though their length is not mentioned.

The temple inside was paneled with beams and boards of cedar (v.9). The tabernacle was built of acacia boards (Exodus 26:15). Acacia is a hard, desert wood and speaks of humanity in temporary circumstances of desert experience. Those boards picture believers as they are seen even now "in Christ" for they were covered with gold. But the cedar of the temple, a specially enduring wood, speaks of believers in glory, in the Father's house, also clothed with gold, the symbol of divine glory, reflecting the beauty of Christ for eternity, not only on earth.

While the temple was still in building, God spoke to Solomon, telling him seriously that God's dwelling in the temple would be conditional upon Solomon's obedience to God's statutes, his executing God's judgments and keeping His commandments (vs.11-13). How different this is to the fact that the Church of God is now established as "a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:21-22). God's presence in the Church is not conditional on our obedience, but is based upon the permanent value of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, a divine work, with no condition of man's work involved at all.

Neither Solomon personally nor his family nor his subjects fulfilled the conditions God set down, so that eventually God withdrew from the temple. Ezekiel records the glory departing in stages (Ezekiel 8:4; Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23). God did bear long with Israel's disobedience, but eventually, as the Lord Jesus said, "Your house is left to you desolate" (Matthew 23:38). This was solemnly finalized when the Lord Jesus, the Son over God's house, was rejected and crucified. What could the temple be without its Lord?

The inside walls of the temple were built of cedar from the floor to the ceiling, and the floor with planks of cypress (v.15). Cypress is a hard, durable wood of fragrant smell. Cedar is not so hard but just as durable.

The inner sanctuary also had walls of cedar and was 20 cubits in all three dimensions (vs.16, 20). This was 10 cubits less in height than the temple proper, but nothing is said as to what was done with the other ten cubits. The outer sanctuary was twice the size of the inner, being 40 cubits long and the same width and height. These are the same proportions as are seen in the tabernacle (Exodus 26:15-32).

The cedar walls were carved with ornamental buds and open flowers (v.18). Of course these would be visible through the overlaying gold. These buds and flowers are a reminder of resurrection life, just as in eternity the Father's house will portray the wonderful joy and beauty of the resurrection of Christ, a life vibrant and eternal.

Then the inner sanctuary was prepared as a place for the ark. This was the only article of furniture inside the holiest of all. It speaks of Christ as the Sustainer of the throne of God, for the mercy-seat covering the ark symbolizes God's throne, which is not only a throne of justice and authority, but a throne of grace or of mercy, from which God's mercy is dispensed to those in need (Hebrews 4:16).

The inner sanctuary was a cube, 20 cubits in length, breadth and height (v.20). This is beautifully symbolic of the Trinity. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The unity and equality of each member of the Trinity is pictured in this. We cannot say that the Father is part of God, nor the Son or the Spirit are part of God. The cube tells us that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God; for it could not be said that the length is part of the cube, the width also a part and the height a part. Every point within the cube is comprehended in the length, also in the width and in the height. If one dimension is taken away, nothing is left. Thus, while God is a triune Being, the oneness of the Godhead is also emphasized.

The sanctuary was overlaid with pure gold, and the cedar altar also (v.20). This was evidently the same altar as mentioned in verse 22 which was placed in the outer sanctuary next to the inner sanctuary. This altar was for offering incense. It pictures Christ as the Sustainer of the worship of His people. The altar of burnt offering was outside, for on this were offered the many animals, all of them speaking of the value of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary for us. Now, being raised from the dead, He "dieth no more," but He receives worship.

Having overlaid the inside of the temple with pure gold, Solomon also had gold chains stretched across the front of the inner sanctuary. The gold chains were evidently in addition to the doors (v.31). The veil also was in place there, for chapter 8:4 tells us that all the holy furnishings of the tabernacle were brought to the temple; and of course at the time of the death of the Lord Jesus, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. Gold speaks of the beauty of the glory of God, for the temple was His dwelling.

Also, in the inner sanctuary were two cherubim carved from olive wood. The olive is symbolic of Christ from whom the Spirit of God (the oil) is sent from the Father (John 15:26). These were also covered with gold (v.28). Their size was large, with their wings stretched sideways, each measuring 10 cubits from wing tip to wing tip. Being side by side, their inside wings touched each other and the outside wings touched the wall on either side, thus spanning the whole width of 20 cubits. The cherubim symbolize the government of God. Since there were two this reminds us of the perfect balance of God's government, involving both justice and grace which are equally important (vs.22-27).

Besides this all the walls of both the inner and outer sanctuary were carved with figures of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. The number of these is not mentioned, nor the size of the cherubim. Likely they were smaller than the first two mentioned. But God was thus insisting on His government of grace and truth, which people too easily forget. The palm trees speak of Christ who bears fruit with unfailing consistency. The open flowers picture the mature beauty (not buds) of the Lord Jesus. Thus we see the four principles that are of paramount importance if God was to dwell there - grace, truth, fruitfulness and beauty.

Doors of olive wood were made for the entrance to the inner sanctuary (v.31). There were two of these doors and they also had carvings of figures of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers (v.32). In the tabernacle there were no doors, but only a veil, because the tabernacle was temporary as God's dwelling while Israel were journeying in the wilderness; but in the temple there were evidently doors as well as the veil.

There were also doors by which to enter into the outer sanctuary The posts for these were made of olive wood (v.33), but the doors themselves of cypress (v.34). These two had carvings of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, all overlaid with gold (v.35).

The court surrounding the temple was fenced with three rows of hewn stone and a row of cedar beams (v.36). It may be difficult to envision just what is meant by this, and the spiritual significance of it may be just as difficult to discern.

Seven years were required for the building to be completed. This may seem a long time when so large a number of workmen were engaged in the work, but there had to be painstaking labor involved in the great detail of the work, for the temple pictures the Father's house in glory.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Kings 6:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/1-kings-6.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 11th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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