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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
2 Chronicles 3

 

 

Verses 1-17

EXPOSITION

2 Chronicles 3:1

Mount Moriah. This name מוֹריָה occurs twice in the Old Testament, viz. here and Genesis 22:2, in which latter reference it is alluded to as "the land of Moriah," and "one of the mountains" in it is spoken of. Whether the name designates the same place in each instance is more than doubtful. In the present passage the connection of the place with David is marked. Had it been the spot connected with Abraham and the proposed sacrifice of Isaac, it is at least probable that this also would have been emphasized, and not here only, but in 2 Samuel 24:17-25 and 1 Chronicles 21:16-26; but in neither of these places is there the remotest suggestion of such fame of old belonging to it. Nor in later passages of history (e.g. Nehemiah's rebuilding, and in the prophets, and the New Testament), where the opportunities would have been of the most tempting, is there found one single suggestion of the kind. There am also at fewest two reasons of a positive and intriusic character against Solomon's Moriah being Abraham's—in that this latter was a specially conspicuous height (Genesis 22:4), and was a secluded and comparatively desolate place, neither of which features attach to Solomon's Moriah. Nevertheless the identity theory is stoutly maintained by names as good as those of Thomson; Tristram; Hengstenberg ('Genuineness of Pentateuch, 2.162, Ryland's tr.); Kurtz ('History of O. C.,' 1.271); and Knobel and Kalisch under the passage in Genesis—against Grove (in Dr. Smith's ' Bible Dictionary'); Stanley; De Wette, Bleek, and Tischendorf [see 'Speaker's Commentary,' under Genesis 22:2]. Though there is some uncertainty as to the more exact form of the derivation of the name Moriah, it seems most probable that the meaning of it may be "the sight of Jehovah." Where the Lord appeared unto David his father. The clause is no doubt elliptical, and probably it is not to be mended by the inserting of the words," the Lord," as in our Authorized Version. We do not read anywhere that the Lord did then and there appear to David, though we do read that "the angel of the Lord" appeared to him (2 Samuel 24:16, passim; 1 Chronicles 21:15, 1 Chronicles 21:19, passim). Nor is it desirable to force the niph. preterite of the verb here, rightly rendered "appeared" or "was seen," into "was shown." We should prefer to solve the difficulty occasioned by the somewhat unfinished shape of the clause (or clauses) by reading it in close relation to 1 Chronicles 22:1. Then the vivid impressions that had been made both by works and words of the angel of the Lord caused David to feel and to say with emphasis, "This is the (destined) house of the Lord God," etc. In this light our present passage would read, in a parenthetic manner, "which (i.e. the house, its Moriah position and all) was seen of David;" or with somewhat more of ease, "as was seen of David;" and the following "in the place," etc; will read in a breath with the preceding "began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem … in the place," etc. David had prepared (so 1 Chronicles 22:2-4). In the threshing-floor of Ornan (so 2 Samuel 24:18; 1 Chronicles 21:15,1 Chronicles 21:16, 1 Chronicles 21:18, 1 Chronicles 21:21-28).

2 Chronicles 3:2

In the second day. The word "day" as italicized in our Authorized Version type is of course not found in the Hebrew text. Several manuscripts fail also to show the other words of this clause, viz. "In the second;" and that they are probably spurious derives confirmation from the fact that neither the Arabic nor Syriac Versions, nor the Septuagint nor Vulgate translations, produce them. In the second month, in the fourth year. Reading the verse, therefore, as though it began thus, the most interesting but doubtful question of fixing an exact chronology for what preceded Solomon's reign is opened. In our present text there is little sign of anything to satisfy the offers to do so, if only again to disappoint the more grievously. There we read of "four hundred and eighty years" from the Exodus to this beginning of the building of Solomon's temple. Now, this latter date can be determined with tolerable accuracy by travelling backwards from the date of Cyrus taking Babylon, and the beginning of the return from the Captivity, making allowance for the seventy years of the Captivity, the duration of the line of separate Judah-kings, and the remanet, a large one, of the years of Solomon's reign. All this, however, helps nothing at all the period stretching from the Exodus to the beginning of the building of the temple. And the events of this period, strongly corroborated by other testimony, seem to show convincingly that no faith can be reposed in the authenticity of the chronological statement of our parallel.

2 Chronicles 3:3

Now these. Perhaps the easiest predicate to supply to this elliptical clause is are the measures, or the cubits. Was instructed. The verb is hoph. conjugation of יָסַד to "found;" and the purport of the clause is that Solomon caused the foundations of the building to be laid of such dimensions by cubit. Ezra 3:11 and Isaiah 28:16 give the only other occurrences of the hoph. conjugation of this verb. Cubits after the first measure. This possibly means the cubit of pre-Captivity times, but at all events the Israelites' own ancient cubit—perhaps a hand-breadth (Ezekiel 43:13) longer than the present, or seven in place of six. The cubit (divided into six palms, and a palm into four finger-breadths) was the unit of Hebrew lineal measure. It stands for the length from the elbow to the wrist, the knuckle, or the tip of the longest finger. There is still considerable variation in opinion as to the number of inches that the cubit represents, and considerable perplexity as to the two or three different cubits (Deuteronomy 3:11; Ezekiel 40:5; Ezekiel 43:13) mentioned in Scripture. One of the latest authorities, Conder, gives what seem to be reasons of almost decisive character for regarding the cubit of the temple buildings as one of sixteen inches. The subject is also discussed at length in Smith's ' Bible Dictionary,' 3.1736—1739. And the writer finally concludes to accept, under protest, Thenius's calculations, which give the cubit as rather over nineteen inches.

2 Chronicles 3:4

The porch … an hundred and twenty. The "porch" ( אוּלָם, Greek, ὁ πρόναος). It is out of the question that the porch should be of this height in itself. And almost as much out of the question that, if it could be so, this should be the only place to mention it by word or. description. There can be no doubt that the text is here slightly corrupt, and perhaps it is a further indication of this that, while the parallel contains nothing of the height, this place fails (but comp. our 2 Chronicles 3:8) to give the breadth ("ten cubits"), which the parallel does give. The words for" hundred" and for "cubit" easily confuse with one another. And our present Hebrew text, מֵאָה וְעִשְׂרִים, read עְמוֹת עְשֵׂרִים, will make good Hebrew syntax, and be in harmony with the Septuagint (Alexandrian), and with the Syriac and Arabic Versions. This gives the height of the porch as 20 cubits, which will be in harmony with the general height of the building, which was 30 cubits. Thus far, then, the plan of the temple is plain. The house is 60 cubits long, i.e. 20 for the holy of holies ( דְּבִיר or קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים);40 for the holy place ( הֵיכָל); and for breadth 20 cubits. The porch was in length the same as the breadth of the house, viz. 20 cubits, but in breadth it was 10 cubits (l Kings 2 Chronicles 6:3) only, while its height was 20 cubits, against a height of 30 cubits for the "house" (1 Kings 6:2). Overlaid it within with pure gold; i.e. covered the planks with gold leaf, or sometimes with plates of gold (Ovid; 'L Epp. ex. Pont,' 1.37, 38, 41, 42; Herod; 1.98; Polyb; 10.27. § 10). The appreciation, as well as bare knowledge, of gold belonged to a very early date (Genesis 2:12). The days when it was used in ring or lump (though not in coin) for sign of wealth and for purposes of exchange, and also for ornament (Genesis 13:2; Genesis 24:22; Genesis 42:21), indicate how early were the beginnings of metallurgy as regards it, though much more developed afterwards ( 17:4; Proverbs 17:3; Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 46:9); and show it in the time of David and Solomon no rare art, even though foreign workmen, for obvious reasons, were the most skilful workers with it. There are four verbs used to express the idea of overlaying, viz.

(a) חָפָה, in hiph. This occurs only in this chapter, 2 Chronicles 3:5, 2 Chronicles 3:7, 2 Chronicles 3:8, 2 Chronicles 3:9; but in niph. Psalms 68:13 may be compared.

(b) עָלָה in hiph. This occurs in the present sense, though not necessarily staying very closely by it; in 2 Chronicles 9:15, 2 Chronicles 9:16, and its parallel (1 Kings 10:16, 1 Kings 10:17); and perhaps in 2 Samuel 1:24. The meaning of the word, however, is evidently so generic that it scarcely postulates the rendering "overlay."

(c) צָפָה in piel. This occurs in our present verse, as also in a multitude of other places in Chronicles, Kings, Samuel, and Exodus. The radical idea of the verb (kal) is "to be bright."

(d) רָדַךְ in hiph. This occurs only once (1 Kings 6:32). No one of these verbs in itself bespeaks certainly of which or what kind the overlaying might be, unless it be the last, the analogy of which certainly points to the sense of a thin spreading.

2 Chronicles 3:5

The greater house; i.e. the holy place. He ceiled. This rendering is wrong. The verb is (a) given above (2 Chronicles 3:4). It is repeated in the next clause of this very verse as "overlaid," as also in 2 Chronicles 3:7, 2 Chronicles 3:8, 2 Chronicles 3:9. The generic word "covered" would serve all the occasions on which the word occurs here. From a comparison of the parallel it becomes plain that the meaning is that the crone structure of floor and walls was covered over with wood (1 Kings 6:7, 1 Kings 6:15, 1 Kings 6:18). That wood for the floor was fir (1 Kings 6:15), probably slim for the walls, which must depend partly on the translation of this 2 Chronicles 3:15. It would seem to say that (beside the stone) there was an inner stratum, both to walls and floor, of cedar (reason for which would be easy of conjecture). But another translation obviates the necessity of this inner stratum supposition, rendering "from the floor to the top of the wall." According to this, while the overlaying gold was on cedar for walls and ceiling (1 Kings 6:9), it was on fir for the floor, which does not seem what our present verse purports, unless, according to the suggestion of some, "fir" be interpreted to include cedar. Set thereon palm trees and chains. These were, of course, carvings. The chains, not mentioned in the parallel (1 Kings 6:29; but see 1 Kings 7:17), were probably wreaths of chain design or pattern. Easier modern English would read "put thereon."

2 Chronicles 3:6

He garnished. The verb employed is (e) of 2 Chronicles 3:4, supra (Revelation 21:19). Precious stones. The exact manner in which these were applied or fixed is not stated. What the precious stones were, however, need not be doubtful (1 Chronicles 29:2; the obvious references for which passage, Isaiah 54:11, Isaiah 54:12 and Revelation 21:18-21, cannot be forgotten. See also Ezekiel 27:16; So Ezekiel 5:14; Lamentations 4:7). For beauty; i.e. to add beauty to the house. Parvaim. What this word designates, or, if a place, where the place was, is not known. Gesenius ('Lexicon,' sub vet.) would derive it from a Sanskrit word, purva, meaning "oriental." Hitzig suggests another Sanskrit word, paru, meaning "hill," and indicating the "twin hills" of Arabia (Prof; 6.7. § 11) as the derivation. And Knobel suggests that it is a form of Sepharvaim, the Syriac and Jonathan Targum version of Sephar (Genesis 10:30). The word does not occur in any other Bible passage.

2 Chronicles 3:7

And graved cherubim. In the parallel this statement is placed in company with that respecting the "palms and flowers." Layard tells us that all the present description of decoration bears strong resemblance to the Assyrian. There can be no difficulty in imagining this, both in other respects, and in connection with the fact that foreigners, headed by the chief designer Hiram, had so large a share in planning the details of temple workmanship.

2 Chronicles 3:8

The most holy house. The writer proceeds from speaking of "the greater house" (2 Chronicles 3:5), or holy place, to the "holy of holies." The parallel (1 Kings 6:20) adds the height, as also 20 cubits. Six hundred talents. It is impossible to assert with any accuracy the money value intended here. Six hundred talents of gold is an amazing proportion of the yearly revenue of 666 talents of gold, spoken of in 1 Kings 10:14. This latter amount is worth, in Keil's estimate, about three million and three quarters of our money, but in Peele's estimate nearer double that! The Hebrew, Phoenician, and Assyrian unit of weight is the same, and one quite different from the Egyptian. The silver talent (Hebrew, ciccar, כִּכָּר) contained 60 manehs, each maneh being equal to 50 shekels, and a shekel being worth 220 grains; i.e. there were 3000 shekels, or 660,000 grains, in such talent. But the gold talent contained 100 manehs, the maneh 100 shekels, and the shekel 132 grains, making this gold talent the equivalent of 10,000 shekels, or 1,320,000 grains. The "holy shekel," or "shekel of the sanctuary," could be either of gold or silver (Exodus 38:4, Exodus 38:5).

2 Chronicles 3:9

The weight of the nails, fifty shekels of gold. According to the above scale, therefore, this weight would be a twelve-thousandth part for the nails of all the weight of the overlaying plates of gold. The upper chambers. This is the first mention of these "chambers" in the present description, but they have been alluded to by the Chronicle writer before, in 1 Chronicles 28:11. What or where they were is as yet not certainly ascertained. Presumably they were the highest tier of those chambers which surrounded three sides of the main building. But some think they were a superstructure to the holy of holies; others, high chambers in the supposed very lofty superstructure of the porch. Both of these suppositions seem to us of the unlikeliest. It would, however, be much more satisfactory, considering that all the subject before and after treats of the most holy place, to be able to connect this expression in some way with it, nor is there any reason evident for overlaying richly with gold the aforesaid chambers (2 Chronicles 9:4 compared with 2 Chronicles 22:11) of the third tier.

2 Chronicles 3:10

Image work. The word in the Hebrew text ( צַעֲצֻעִים) translated thus in our Authorized Version is a word unknown. Gesenius traces it to "an unused" Hebrew root צוַע, of Arabic derivation (meaning "to carry on the trade of a goldsmith"), and offers to translate it "statuary" work with the Vulgate (opus statuarium). The parallel (1 Kings 6:23) gives simply "wood of oil" (not "olive," Nehemiah 8:15), i.e. the oleaster tree wood. It is obvious that some of the characters of these words would go some way to make the other unknown word. But it must be confessed that our text shows no external indications of a corrupt reading.

2 Chronicles 3:11

Twenty cubits. This, like all the preceding cubit measurings of the temple foundations and heights, and with all the succeeding cherubim measurings, is the exact double of that observed by Moses (Exodus 37:6-9). The height of the cherubim, ten cubits, not mentioned in our text, is given in the parallel (1 Kings 6:26).

2 Chronicles 3:13

Their faces were inward; Hebrew, "were to the house," viz. to the holy place. The position of these cherubim, both as to wings and faces, was clearly different from that of those for the tabernacle of Moses. There they "cover the mercy-seat with their wings, and their faces are one to another … toward the mercy-seat were the faces of the cherubim" (Exodus 25:20; Exodus 37:9). May this alteration in the time of Solomon indicate possibly one more advance in the developing outlook of Divine mercy to a whole world? Neither this place nor the parallel makes it certain whether the cherubim, that are here said to stand on their feet, stood on the ground, as some say they did. As regards those of the tabernacle, the prepositions used in Exodus 25:18, Exodus 25:19 and Exodus 37:7, Exodus 37:8 appear to lay stress on their position being a fixture at and on each extremity of the mercy-seat.

2 Chronicles 3:14

The veil of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen (so Exodus 26:31, Exodus 26:33, Exodus 26:35; Exodus 36:35; Exodus 40:3, Exodus 40:21). It is remarkable that our parallel (1 Kings 6:1-38.) does not make mention of the veil, though a feature of which so much was always made. On the other hand, it is remarkable that our present passage does not make mention of the folding "doors of olive tree," which, with "the veil," intercepted the approach to the oracle (1 Kings 6:31, 1 Kings 6:32), nor of the partition walls (1 Kings 6:16) in which they were situate, nor of the "partition chains [1 Kings 6:21] of gold before the oracle."

2 Chronicles 3:15

Thirty and five cubits. The height of these pillars is attested in three places to have been 18 cubits (1 Kings 7:15; 2 Kings 25:17; Jeremiah 52:21). Some therefore think that the height given in our text describes rather the distance of the one pillar from the other, which would be just 35 cubits, if they stood at the extreme points of the line of the porch front; since the wings on each side (5 cubits for the lowest chamber, and 2.5 cubits for the thickness of the walls) would make up this amount. It is further noticed with this explanation that their height (18 cubits) with the chapiters (5 cubits) added, would bring them to the same height as the porch, and that their ornamentation agrees with that of the porch (1 Kings 7:19). All this may be the ease. Yet considering other indications of uncertainty about our text, and the fact that the characters yod kheth (18) are easily superseded by lamed he (35), it is perhaps likelier that we have here simply a clerical error. The parallel place tells us that these pillars and the chapiters were cast of brass; that "a line [1 Kings 7:15; Jeremiah 52:1-34 :41] of twelve cubits [not seven] did compass either of them about;" that the ornamentation of each chapiter was "a net of checker-work, and a wreath of chain-work;" that upon the five cubits of chapiter there was another "four cubits of lily-work," etc. If this last feature apply to the two pillars, and not (as some think) to the porch only, the pillars would reach a height of 27 cubits, and if it be supposed that they stood on some stone or other superstructure, it may still be that our "thirty-five cubits" has its meaning. Meantime the passage in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 52:1-34 :41) tells us that the pillars were hollow, and that the thickness of the metal was "four fingers."

2 Chronicles 3:16

Chains, as in the oracle. Though the writer of Chronicles has not in this description mentioned any chains as appertaining to the oracle, yet they are mentioned in the parallel. The selection of what is said has in our present text so much the appearance of haste, that this may account for the abrupt appearance of the allusion here. Otherwise the words, "in the oracle," tempt us to fear some corruptness of text, scarcely safely removed by Bertheau's suggestion to substitute רְבִיד ("ring") for דְבִיר ("oracle"). An hundred pomegranates. These passages indicate that the total number of pomegranates was two hundred for each pillar.

2 Chronicles 3:17

Jachin … Boaz. The margin of our Authorized Version gives with sufficient correctness the meaning of these names of the pillars, which purport to set forth the safety and sure strength that belong to those who wait on, and who calmly and constantly abide by, the Divine leading. The latter, however, is one word, a substantive, not a compound of preposition, pronoun, and substantive; and the former, though by derivation the future of the hiph. conjugation of the verb הוּן, is established as a substantive in its own right.

HOMILETICS

Verse 1-4:22

(see also on 2 Chronicles 4:1-22. in its proper place).—These two chapters are occupied with the subject of the

The Preparation for the building of the temple

its site, its exact proportions and measures, its contents and furniture, vessels and instruments. Upon the first glance, and merely superficial reading of these, it may seem that they bear little relation to us, address no special messages to us, and proffer but little instruction adapted to our light, our time of day, our confessedly more spiritual form of religion. A little longer thought, more patient inquiry, and deeper consideration will go far to correct, or, at any rate, to modify, an estimate of this kind. Perhaps no devout mind, in a healthy state, unsophisticated and unvitiated by special freak of education, will fail to feel, free of argument, that the principles underlying the directions of minutest detail of outward work once, find their use and application now within the domain of motive, of purity of motive, and exactitude in judging, not the motives of others, but our own; within the domain, again, of cheerful, ungrudging giving to Christ and to his living Church; and within the domain of that exalted but perfectly simple law of giving, not the lame, the blind, the blemished, and the utter superfluity of our own possessions, but the first and the best, and of what may call for some self-denial, some self-sacrifice. Add to these considerations the hard fact that, in the name of Christianity, in the purer name of Christ himself, and for the love of him, now for fifteen centuries (repudiating that narrowest of all things, a narrow construction of the spirituality of the simplest and purest religion possible) the instinct of the disciples and followers of Christ has expended on the art of ecclesiastical architecture, the art of ecclesiastical painting, the art of ecclesiastical music—all things of the outside, if so they must be called—an amount of care, time, skill, devotion, exactness, and wealth of precious things, exceeding by millionfolds all devoted to the temple of Solomon and all its successors, and required for them, even by highest inspiration of the pattern showed on the mount. It is, therefore, a great historic mistake, and a blinded or oblivious reading of history, when any presume to suppose that the detail, exactness, material grandeur, and contribution of all costly things commanded for the temple of the ancient Jew are not paralleled by their almost identical likes in the Church of the Christian! For such reasons as these it is interesting, and it is useful, to review the injunctions and the methods and the accomplished results of Solomon's work as rehearsed in these chapters. They contain the seminal principles which Christian work still demands, and by which the Christian Church should be guided. Far, then, from slighting and underrating the significance of the sacred principles that underlay the religion of elder days, and of that chosen people, to whom it was conveyed in all its outer detail by special revelation, let us be encouraged to consider it attentively, now, in respect of that holy house, the temple, which stood for So much in the minds of a great and remarkable nation, and which was a manifestation of so much of the mind and will of God to them first, and through them and after them to the world. For we are here reminded of—

I. THE STRESS LAID UPON THE VERY PLACE WHERE THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE TEMPLE SHOULD BE PLANTED. It was the place:

1. Where sin had been sternly reminded of its just punishment (1 Chronicles 21:15-17), and had grievously felt it.

2. Where the interposing angel of the Lord appeared, and spoke and stayed the destruction and pestilence (1 Chronicles 21:27), in answer to confession, repentance, and sacrifice.

3. Where that same sacrifice was offered on the new-builded altar, which was paid for, and everything necessary to the sacrifice upon it paid for by David, that it might as far as possible be the perfect offering of self. The house and the altar were almost synonymous (1 Chronicles 22:1). And we are reminded of the greatest fact, the central fact, that there is no such thing as a true Church without altar. The one, only true and ever-abiding Church of the living God on earth is the sacred environment of the solemn altar, is founded one with it, built up round about it, grows out of it, commences, as did the temple of David (1 Chronicles 22:2) and Solomon, from it, and ever must have it for its centre.

II. THE FACT OF THE DIVINE INSTRUCTION GIVEN FOR THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE IN ALL ITS PARTS. This fact, per se, may be justly regarded as marking:

1. The Divine estimate as to human need of revelation for all that pertains to real religion. There is something that inevitably and invariably differences natural religion from revealed religion. It lacks direction, stability, and a real living connection between the worshipped and the worshipper, the great Adorable and the humble sinful adorer. This is supplied by revelation, which is by most deliberate preference not partial, not fitful, not a thing to be taken or left, but uniform, spreading everywhere and penetrating to each detail.

2. The reverence towards all that affects our spiritual and eternal weal, which Heaven would help us to feel and earnestly to believe in.

3. The kind sympathetic interest with which the August Majesty himself would wish to help us assure ourselves that he tends even the human side of religious institutions. He "dwells in light unapproachable," and yet himself is not inaccessible, is not afar off, is nigh to us. What a welcome thought, inspiring thought, that he helps us build our very place of worship! Notice—

III. THE CAREFULNESS AND EXACTITUDE WHICH THAT DIVINE INSTRUCTION MODELLED FOR OUR IMITATION. After the tabernacle, in time indeed, but second to it in no other sense, nor strictly separable from it, here was the beginning of corporate Church life and institution and building. All things must be done "decently and in order;" "as to the Lord, and not to men" alone; "not with eye-service." And as real religion is the only real life, how sure were all the carefulness and exactitude now prescribed and exemplified to draw up, and constantly to tend to draw up, lesser life, home life, and individual life! The individual life (time and illustrations without number have shown it) will grow more divinely ordered for that man whose taste, whose knowledge, but, above all, whose deep principle reverences, observes, and "observes to do" all the words of such commandments, with those that correspond with them, and are their heirs and successors, as are contained in these chapters.

IV. THE PRINCIPLE INVOLVED IN THE MATERIALS AND CONTENTS OF THE TEMPLE, IN THEIR BEING SUFFICIENT IN ALL SMALLEST DETAILS, BEAUTIFUL IN DESIGN AND MAKE, GENUINE AND SOLID, AND COSTLY.

V. THE THINGS IN OR BEFORE THE TEMPLE, WHICH WERE GREATER THAN IT. Beside the many lesser vessels and instruments, each of which had its ancillary (and therefore not unimportant) relation to the greater vessels, or to the worship, service, and sacrifices for which those greater were ordained, there were some of special, marked, leading importance; while the distinguishing importance of some others lay strictly in their import. Call attention to just the things which arc said of:

1. The greater house; its gold; its ceiling, with fine gold, palm-tree figures and chains; its walls, with graven cherubim.

2. The most holy house; its fine gold; its two symbolic cherubim; its veil, with wrought cherubim.

3. The two pillars; their height; their chapiters, with chains and pomegranates; their names and respective positions.

[The general homiletics of 2 Chronicles 3:1-17. and 4. combined close here, and the more particular homiletics appropriate to 2 Chronicles 4:1-22. separately, follow that chapter.]

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

2 Chronicles 3:1, 2 Chronicles 3:2

Beginning to build.

"Solomon began to build the house of the Lord." We are frequently in a similar position; we are starting some sacred enterprise, which, directly or indirectly, affects the Church of Christ, the kingdom of God. What are the sentiments and what is the spirit appropriate to such an occasion? But we may first learn from the text—

I. THAT, TO A LARGE EXTENT, OUR POSSESSION IS OUR HERITAGE. It was a very great privilege Solomon was now enjoying, and it must have been felt by him to be a high honour and a keen gratification. How much of it he owed to his father! It was David who conceived the idea; it was he who gained the sanction of Jehovah; it was he who had practically gained the valuable co-oporation of Hiram (1 Kings 5:1); it was he, also, who had secured an admirable and acceptable site for the building (1 Chronicles 21:18; 1 Chronicles 22:1). If we examine we shall find that a very large part of our acquisition, whether it be property (in the usual sense of that word), or knowledge and intellectual power, or honour, or affection, or ever character, is due to that which we have inherited from those who came before us.

II. THAT GREATER WORK DEMANDS FULLER PREPARATION. The building of the temple was certainly one of the very first things that Solomon considered and determined upon when he came to the throne. Yet it was not until "the second month, in the fourth year of his reign," that the erection actually commenced. So great a work took large preparation. We show our sense of the real seriousness and magnitude of the work we do for God when we take time and spend strength in its preparation. To go with haste and heedlessness to any sacred work, even though the "house of the Lord" we arc building is not one of magnificence (1 Chronicles 22:5), is a spiritual mis-demeanour; to enter upon any great undertaking in the name and cause of Jesus Christ without much patient thought and earnest effort in the way of preparation is wholly wrong.

III. THAT THE COMMENCEMENT OF A GREAT WORK IS A MEMORABLE MOMENT. It was fitting that the very day when this great work began should he recorded, as it is in Holy Writ (2 Chronicles 3:2). It was a memorable moment in Solomon's reign and in the history of the Jews. For then began to rise a building which had an immense and, indeed, an incalculable influence on the nation, and so upon mankind. Such times are sacred. Of all those days to which, in later years, we look back with interest and joy, none will stand out so clearly, and none will give us such pure and strong gratification, as the days when we instituted some movement in the cause of Christ, in the service of our fellow-men.

IV. THAT THIS HOUR OF COMMENCEMENT SHOULD BE A VERY SACRED TIME TO OUR SOULS. It may well be one of:

1. Joyful eagerness; for there is something very inspiring in the act of commencing a truly noble work—it exhilarates and animates the soul. It should also be one of:

2. Special prayerfulness; for then we urgently need the guiding and guarding hand of our God to be upon us.

3. Steadfast purpose; for there will be unanticipated difficulties and disheartening delays, possibly much temporary disappointment and partial failure, and a strong, resolute purpose will be needed to carry us through to the end.

4. Unselfish devotedness. We must ever keep in mind that the "house" we are erecting, of whatever kind it be, is the house "of the Lord." If we fail to realize that it is for Christ that we are working, our labour will lose its excellency, its inspiration, and its reward.—C.

2 Chronicles 3:3-9

Four dements of faithful service.

These are—

I. OBEDIENCE; the intelligent carrying out of Divine direction. Close and careful correspondence with the commandment was more particularly enforced under the Mosaic dispensation (Hebrews 8:5). Solomon was careful to do as he was "instructed for the building" (2 Chronicles 3:3); the dimensions were determined "by the first measure" (2 Chronicles 3:3); he was concerned to act obediently. In the service of Christ, while there is very little indeed of prescription or proscription as to the details of devotion or the particulars of Divine service, we shall be careful to consult the will of Christ in everything. The mind of our Master, and not our own individual preference, should be the main consideration in all Christian effort: we shall gain a knowledge of his mind by a devout and intelligent study of his life and of his words, and of those of his apostles.

II. SPONTANEITY. This is not any wise inconsistent with obedience, and it was not absent even from the building of the temple, in which there was, necessarily, so much of careful and detailed prescription. Solomon" garnished the house with precious stones" (2 Chronicles 3:6), and these had been furnished by the spontaneous liberality of David and of his people (1 Chronicles 29:2, 1 Chronicles 29:8). In the service of our Saviour there is ample room for the play of spontaneous devotion. We may bring to his sacred cause the "precious stones" of our most reverent and earnest thought, of our most fervent feeling, of our most eloquent and convincing speech, of our most self-denying labour, all uncommanded and unconstrained, all prompted by a pure and keen desire to serve our Lord and bless our brethren.

III. BEAUTY. These precious stones were "for beauty "(2 Chronicles 3:6), and the abundance of gold would also add to the beauty of the building, as seen from the inside. Every "house of the Lord" which we build should be Fair and comely as well as strong. Happily for us, the beauty in which God delights is not pecuniarily costly; it is that which the poorest may bring to the sanctuary and the service of his Lord. It is not found in precious stones which only the wealthy can secure; it is found in "a meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:3), in the spirit of true reverence and pure devotion (John 4:23), in patient endurance under wrong (1 Peter 2:19, 1 Peter 2:20), in patient continuance in well-doing (Romans 2:7), in a broad and deep Christian charity (1 Corinthians 13:1-13.). These are the beauties which adorn our character and make our service well-pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour.

IV. THOROUGHNESS. The strong timber which Solomon used was "overlaid with pure gold"—with the precious metal, and that of the best kind. Nothing was spared that could give strength, solidity, perfectness to the building now erected. It was built, not for a few years, or for a generation, but for long centuries; to stand the force of the elements of nature; to remain strong and fair when children's children in distant times shored come up to Zion to see the house of the Lord and to enter into its courts. All work that we do for our Divine Redeemer should partake of this character. It should be thorough; it should be of the very best that we can offer; it should be of "pure gold." Not our weakness, but our strength; not our exhaustion, but our freshness; not our crudeness, but our culture; not our ignorance, but our information and acquisition—our very best self should we bring to our Lord who gave himself for us. With the choicest materials we can furnish, in the exercise of our faculties at their fullest, should we build up his sacred cause who lavished his strength and laid down his life on our behalf.—C.

2 Chronicles 3:10-13

Life at its highest.

These cherubim were, of course, symbolic; but what did they symbolize?

1. Certainly not the Divine. Nothing is more improbable, indeed nothing is more incredible, than that in the holy place of the temple there should be anything artistic intended to portray or represent the Deity. That would have gone far to unteach the very truth which was so carefully taught by every Mosaic institution.

2. As certainly not the animal and irrational. Part of these creatures may have belonged to the unintelligent world; but if it were so, it would only be to represent some virtue or power of which that particular animal was suggestive.

3. Probably the highest form of creature-life, human or angelic; either man at his best, when endowed with nobler powers than he possesses here, or else the holy and pure intelligences which belong to that great realm that intervenes between the human and Divine. And the idea is that, as we reach the very noblest forms of life, we find these in the near presence of God and engaged in his study and service. To what shall we do well to aspire? Where shall we dwell when we touch our culminating point? In what activities shall we be then engaged? To these questions the cherubim provide the answer.

I. IN THE NEAR PRESENCE OF GOD. The cherubim were, day and night, in the most holy place, close to the sacred ark, very near to the manifested presence of God. Life, at-its very highest, is life that is spent with God; in which the spirit is conscious of his nearness to itself. God was not more truly present at Bethel than elsewhere; but to Jacob that was the very "house of God," because there he felt himself to be in the very presence of the Holy One. And it is just as we realize that, step by step along all our earthly course, moment by moment through all our earthly life, God is truly with us and we are the objects of his thought and his love—it is in that proportion that our life rises to its true stature, and we are not only men, we are sons of God, we are "living ones" whose home is on the earth, but whose citizenship is in heaven.

II. IN THE SUSTAINED STUDY OF GOD. The faces of these cherubim were "inward" (2 Chronicles 3:13). They turned toward the manifested presence; they gazed continually on God. God was the Object of their ceaseless thought, of their fixed and settled study. Just as we truly live, this will be so with us. We shall wish to know ourselves, and shall study our human nature in all its varied manifestations; we shall wish to know all we can learn of the visible universe, and shall delight to search its secret stores, its beauties, and its marvels. But we shall feel that the one object that is, far above all others, worthy of our most earnest and patient study, is the character, the life, the will, the working of our heavenly Father. The noblest and truest study of mankind is God, and our life is life indeed as we are engaged in the reverent and the intelligent study of his mind and spirit. To us who "have the mind of Christ," and know the Father by our knowledge of his Son, this grand privilege is open.

III. IN THE ACTIVE SERVICE OF GOD. A full description is given of the wings of the cherubim. Why? Is it not to indicate that they stand ready, with their full powers outstretched, to do the bidding of Jehovah? The highest life is in the fullest service. As we serve we live. Even the "living ones' of the celestial kingdom find their nobility, not in commanding, but in fulfilling and in achieving. The attitude of the highest intelligences we can conceive and depict is that of perfect readiness to carry out the commandments, to do the work, to promote the kingdom of God. It wilt be thus that we too shall attain our highest. Not by receiving that which is most costly, not by enjoying that which is most pleasant; but by eagerly and faithfully doing that which is most worthy and most Divine.—C.

2 Chronicles 3:15-17

Our strength and beauty.

The dimensions of these pillars are still unsettled and uncertain. But there can be no question as to their main characteristics, and very little doubt as to their spiritual significance. Their obvious size and their names speak of strength; the decorations which they bore speak of beauty. Standing where they stood, in or at the porch of the house of the Lord, they were standing monuments of the two closely related truths—

I. THAT WE SHOULD RECOGNIZE IN GOD HIMSELF STRENGTH AND BEAUTY.

1. Strength. Our temptation is to trust in the strong barrier of sea or mountain range; in the powerful army and navy with all their equipments; in the vigorous and sagacious policy of our statesmanship; in the amplitude of pecuniary resources, etc. But the strength of a country, as also of a man, is in God. If his favour is turned away, all our material advantages will fail us. Rabshakeh's multitudes of armed Assyrians disappear at the stroke of the God of Israel; the rich man, with his full barns and his cherished plans, leaves his wealth behind him when God says, "Thy soul is required of thee." But to the faithful Hezekiah the favour of Jehovah proves an ample shield against the threatening enemy. And they are blessed who "walk in the light of God's countenance;" for he is "the glory of their strength: and in his favour shall their horn be exalted" (Psalms 89:15, Psalms 89:17). The wise nation and the wise man will not look complacently around them to find the secret and source of their strength; they will look up toward him that dwelleth in the heavens, and say, "Jachin; Boaz;" "he will establish;" "in him is strength.'

2. Beauty. We are inclined to boast of the beauty of the landscape; or of the persons of our sons and daughters; or of our palaces and castles and cathedrals; or of our "pleasant pictures," and fair gems and jewels. But our delight should be, first and most, in him whose Divine character is perfect; who unites in himself, with completest symmetry, all possible attributes; who is as merciful as he is pure; who is as pitiful as he is righteous; who is as gentle as he is strong; whom we can not only adore and honour, but delight in and love. We go to the house of the Lord that we may behold "the beauty of the Lord" (Psalms 27:4); and especially that we may dwell upon the beauties and the glories of the character of that Son of man who was "holy, harmless, undefiled," in whose mouth no guile was found, but in whose life every grace that can adorn humanity was seen by those that knew him.

II. THAT WE SHOULD SEEK FROM GOD OUR STRENGTH AND BEAUTY. The Israelites went up to the house of the Lord that by obedient sacrifice, by reverent worship, by believing prayer, they might secure the favour of the Most High. If we would gain from God the strength we need, and that spiritual excellency which is the true beauty of the nation and the individual, we must go to God to seek it. We must present ourselves before him from whom all strength and glory come. We must seek him

(2) in reverent worship;

(3) in earnest and believing prayer for his upholding power and for his shaping hand.

Then will he make us strong to overcome and to accomplish; beautiful to attract and to win.—C.

HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW

2 Chronicles 3:1-17

The building of the temple.

I. THE SITE.

1. Central At Jerusalem.

(1) Natural. Jerusalem, the metropolis of the kingdom, the political and religious centre of the country, was entitled to contain the chief symbol round which the political and religious life of the nation was in future to revolve.

(2) Appropriate. As the king had a palace in the capital, it was fitting the king's King, Jehovah, should there have a temple.

(3) Convenient. Since the temple was to be Israel's meeting-place in their national assemblies, it was better the structure should stand in the chief city of the realm than in a provincial town.

(4) Significant. It seemed to say that henceforth Solomon was to seek the security of his throne, the stability of his government, and the welfare of his empire in the worship of Jehovah and the practice of religion.

2. Conspicuous. On Mount Moriah, which had been so named because of Jehovah's appearing on its summit to Abraham (Genesis 22:2), rather than because it had been pointed out to David by Jehovah (Bertheau)—a mountain situated north-east of Zion, and now styled "The Haram," after a Mohammedan mosque with which it is crowned. According to present-day measurements, rising to the height of between 2278 and 2462 feet above the level of the Mediterranean, it was a fitting site for the temple, which, besides being firmly established as founded on a rock, would thereby be visible from afar, and so a centre of attraction for travellers approaching the city. So is Christ's Church, like it, founded on a rock (Matthew 16:18), and, like it, should be a city set upon a hill (Matthew 5:14).

3. Consecrated. In the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (On the suitability of the Haram summit to be a threshing-floor, see Exposition.) In addition to the theophany which had there occurred in connection with the offering of Isaac, a similar manifestation of Jehovah had recently taken place in the lifetime of David (1 Chronicles 21:15-30). It was thus to Solomon a spot doubly hallowed. If in David's eyes, because of the old patriarchal altar that had stood thereon, the place was invested with a special charm, in Solomon's this charm would not be diminished, but intensified, by the recollection of the altar his father had built.

II. THE TIME.

1. Specific. "In the second day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign, began Solomon to build;" i.e. 480 years after the exodus from Egypt (1 Kings 6:1); or, according to another reckoning, 592 years subsequent to that event, 240 after the building of Tyre, and 143 years 8 months prior to the founding of Carthage (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8.3.1; 'Against Apion,' 1.17, 18). Great events make deep indentations on the memories of men as well as on the course of time. The building of the Solomonic temple, of more than national, was of world-wide importance.

2. Early. It shows the high conception Solomon had of the work delegated to him by his father, as well as marked out for him by God; indicates the earnestness and enthusiasm with which he undertook it, that he set about its performance almost at the earliest possible moment, "in the fourth year of his reign," before erecting for himself a palace, or for his country a chain of forts. It is an Old Testament form of the New Testament lesson, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).

III. THE ERECTION.

1. The house, or the temple proper.

(1) Its dimensions: 60 cubits long, 20 broad (2 Chronicles 3:3), 30 high (1 Kings 6:2); i.e. taking the cubit at 1.33 feet, 79.8 feet, 26'. feet, and 39.9 feet, or, in round numbers, 80 feet, 27 feet, and 40 feet.

(2) Its parts. "The greater house" (2 Chronicles 3:5), i.e. the holy place, or the outer of the two compartments into which the house was divided, and "the most holy house" (2 Chronicles 3:8), or the inner of the two compartments. As this latter was a perfect cube, 20 cubits each way, the former was (internally viewed) a rectangular parallelopiped, of length 40, of breadth 20, of height 30 cubits. Besides these were "the upper chambers" (2 Chronicles 3:9), or the space above the holy of holies, whose dimensions were 20 cubits long, 20 broad, and 10 high.

(3) Its ornaments. The house was built of white freestone cut from the royal quarries under Bezetha, the northern hill on which Jerusalem is built, smoothly polished and laid so skilfully and harmoniously together that "there appeared to the spectators no sign of any hammer or other instrument of architecture, but as if, without any use of them, the entire materials had naturally united themselves together" (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8.3. 2). The interior of the house was covered with wood, the walls and the ceiling with cedar, the floor with cypress (1 Kings 6:15), so that no part of the stonework was visible. The wood was ornamented with carved work representing palm trees (2 Chronicles 3:5) and cherubim (2 Chronicles 3:7), the latter on the walls, the former on the roof. In addition were knops or gourde and open flowers (1 Kings 6:18). Similar decorations were carved upon the outer sides of the walls (1 Kings 6:29). The whole house, interior and exterior—walls, roof, beams, posts, doors—was overlaid with gold plates, which received impressions from the carved work underneath. "To say all in a word, Solomon left no part of the temple, neither internal nor external, but what was covered with gold" (Josephus). The gold, of the finest quality (1 Kings 6:20), was fetched from Parvaim, a place of uncertain location—Ophir in Ceylon (Bochart), Ophir in India (Knobel), Peru and Mexico (Ritter), Southern or Eastern Arabia (Bertheau), the peninsula of Malacca (Leyrer, in Herzog), having all been suggested. The veil which divided the compartments was made of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen—the same materials as were employed in constructing the tabernacle vail (Exodus 26:31)—and was ornamented with similar cherubic figures. The precious stones wherewith the walls were garnished are not mentioned.

2. The porch.

(1) Its situation: in front of the house.

(2) Its dimensions: 20 cubits broad, 120 high, and 10 long (1 Kings 6:3).

The disproportion between the ground measures and the altitude has suggested the existence in this place of an error (Keil), or of an intentional exaggeration (Bertheau), though Josephus appears to have regarded it as literally correct ('Ant.,' 8.3. 2). Ewald, who upholds the text as genuine, thinks of a tower rising above the porch to the height of 120 feet ('History of Israel, '3.236); but this is far from probable, indeed statically impossible, and must be rejected. On the assumption of a corrupt text, the question remains how high the porch was. Some say 20 cubits (Keil), or 10 lower than the house; others 30, i.e. the exact height of the house (Bertheau); a third 23, at least as high as the pillars (Merz, in Herzog; Schurer, in Riehm).

(3) Its ornaments. Its interior was overlaid with fine gold (2 Chronicles 3:4); its entrance guarded by two massive columns.

3. The pillars.

(1) Their names: that on the right Jachin, or, "He shall establish," meaning that in this shrine Jehovah would henceforth permanently abide (1 Kings 8:13; Psalms 87:5; Psalms 139:14), or that through this would the kingdom be henceforth immovably established (Psalms 89:5); that on the left Boaz, signifying "In him, or in it, is strength," and pointing perhaps to the fulness of heavenly might that resides in him who is the sanctuary's God (Isaiah 45:24), or to the consolidation which should henceforth be given to the kingdom through the erection of this temple (Psalms 144:14). Other explanations have been given, as that Jachin and Boaz were the names of the donors or builders of the pillars (Gesenius), or of two youthful sons of Solomon (Ewald), or that the two words should be read together, as if both were inscribed on each pillar, "He will establish, or may he establish, it with strength" (Thenius). Least acceptable of all solutions is that of the Fathers, that the two names were intended to point to the two natures in Christ, in whom, though appearing in a lowly garb of humanity, dwelt the fulness of Divine strength.

(2) Their height: thirty-five cubits, inclusive of the chapiter of five cubits with which each was crowned (2 Chronicles 3:15); each shaft eighteen cubits, and each crown five cubits, or both together twenty-three cubits (1 Kings 7:15, 1 Kings 7:16; Jeremiah 52:21; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 7.3. 4). It has been suggested that, as twice 18 are 36, the Chronicler should be regarded as stating the length of the two columns together. But as this does not get over the discrepancy, it is better to recognize that the original text has suffered some corruption.

(3) Their position: before the temple. Whether within the porch (1 Kings 7:21), perhaps supporting the roof, or outside and apart from the building, is contested. The ablest art scholars who have given attention to the subject have decided for the latter (see Riehm, 'Hand-worterbuch,' art. "Jaehin and Boaz").

(4) Their parts: first, a hollow column of brass, eighteen cubits high as above mentioned, twelve cubits in circumference, and of metal four fingers thick; and, second, a chapiter or crown of lily-work, i.e. a brass cup shaped like a fully-opened lily—the under part a belly-shaped band of network, bulging out between an under and an upper row of pomegranates strung on chains; above the upper row the lily-shaped cup, or crown, decorated all over with buds, flowers, and leaves like those of lilies.

LESSONS.

1. The place due to religion in communities and individuals, the first.

2. The quality of service given to God and the Church, the best.

3. The power of art to express the ideas and emotions of religion.—W.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 3:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/2-chronicles-3.html. 1897.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
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