Honor the Lord
Focal Teaching Passage: 1 Kings 5:1-6:38
Preparing to Build the Temple (5:1-18)
Chapter five records the relationship Solomon wisely maintained with “Hiram,” the king of “Tyre” (the capital city of the Phoenician empire) whose thirty-year reign (969-936 BC) overlapped both David and Solomon. When Hiram had learned of Solomon’s anointing as king of Israel he dispatched his personal “envoys” to him in order to continue the friendly relations between the two notions (v. 1). This move would likely preserve the peace (5:4) between the kingdoms and would allow the two countries to “create a monopoly by exploiting Israel’s control of the land-based trade and Tyre’s expertise in shipping” (House, 121).
Through an agreement between the two kings, cleverly crafted by Solomon (vv. 3-6), Israel secured the timber—“all the cedar and pine logs he wanted”—necessary to construct “a temple for the Name of the Lord” (vv. 3,11). These timbers, grown in the higher altitudes, along with many other essential building components, were not otherwise available to the Israelites. The contract called for annual payments of “twenty thousand cors of wheat”—about 125,000 bushels—and “twenty thousand baths”—some 115,000 gallons—of premium “pressed olive oil” (v.11).
The labor force, which would be “conscripted” by Solomon to construct the temple, consisted of 30,000 men to cut and ship the timber, 80,000 men to cut and prepare the stone, and 70,000 men to transport the stones to Jerusalem. A total of 3,3000 men acted as project managers under Solomon’s direction (vv. 13-18). Apparently, due to the grueling nature of the assignment, the laborers pressed into service by Solomon only had to work about four months of each year (v. 11).
The key theme of this section is clearly the wisdom that God faithfully bestowed upon Solomon just as he had requested in his prayer (3:7-9). The author highlights this fact in verse 7 and most clearly verse 12—“The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised.”
Building the Temple (6:1-38)
According to verse 1, the temple project was started four hundred and eighty years “after the Israelites had come out of Egypt,” during the “fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel.” This detail serves to remind the readers that “the permanent worship center is one more proof that God has given Israel the promised land” [House, 126].
In verses 1-10 the author provides the dimensions of the structure that would serve as the “temple of the Lord.” The temple’s length was “sixty cubits,” or about ninety feet. It was designed to be about thirty feet wide and some forty-five feet in height.
This section includes the notation that all of the events surrounding the construction of the temple were intrinsically connected to the conditional covenant promises which David had committed to his son (2:1-4). Here we see that Solomon was responsible before God to “follow my decrees, carry out my regulations and keep all my commands and obey them” (v. 12). Such consistent and faithful obedience would serve to ensure that God would “live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel”(v. 13). That is, both Solomon and the nation of Israel would enjoy the continual favor and presence of Yahweh and would know the success and peace associated with covenant faithfulness. According to Paul House, the conditional language—“if you follow . . . .” (v. 12)—displays the fact that
Great kings and great buildings can and will be replaced if disobedience becomes a way of life. On the other hand, eternal blessings will result from consistent obedience. Solomon must not forget these things in the midst of all his busy success. .
The interior of the temple contained the “Most Holy Place” which measured 30 x 30 x 30 feet (v. 16). This structure, housed within the temple, would become the very place where God would manifest His glory-presence among His people. It was in this “inner sanctuary,” which was overlaid with “pure gold,” that the ark of the covenant would rest and the blood sacrifices would be offered in an act of atonement for the sins of the nation (v. 20).
Verses 23-28 describe the strange creatures know as “cherubim,” each constructed of “olive wood.” Their wings, spanning some thirty feet, spread out the entire width of the inner room and touched the wall on each side (v. 27). While there is great speculation regarding the significance of these creatures, it seems apparent that their purpose here is to symbolically guard the ark of the covenant much in the same fashion that the cherubim guarded the entrance to Eden [House, 129]. If this is correct their inclusion in the temple symbolizes the fact that entrance into the presence of God requires a blood sacrifice for atonement. In this way the pathway ultimately leading to the cross is established.
According to verses 37-38, the entire temple project was completed, “in all its details according to its specifications,” in about seven years and four months.
One: Carefully read I Kings 5:4,5 and answer the following questions:
Two: Note I Chronicles 22:14-16. Here we see the enormous amount of money David initially invested in the construction of the Temple. Is there any significance to the fact that such a large amount of money was used in the building project? What principles of worship and service to God are found here?
Three: Why was a temple necessary? Can we learn anything from this ancient story of Solomon’s desire to build such a structure?
Four: Note I Kings 6:11-13. Is this promise conditional or unconditional? If conditional, what were the conditions? Hint: Note these three key words: “follow,” “carry out,” and “keep.”