|Old Testament History - 5.7 - Dedication of the Temple, Solomon's Prayer|
Dedication of the temple — when it took place — connection with the feast of tabernacles — the consecration services — the king’s part in them — symbolical meaning of the great institutions in
AT length the great and beautiful house, which Solomon had raised to the Name of Jehovah, and to which so many ardent thoughts and hopes attached, was finished. Its solemn dedication took place in the year following its completion, and, very significantly, immediately before, and in connection with, the Feast of Tabernacles. Two questions, of some difficulty and importance, here arise. The first concerns the circumstance that the sacred text (1 Kings 7:l-12) records the building of Solomon's palace immediately after that of the Temple, and, indeed, almost intermingles the two accounts. This may partly have been due to a very natural desire on the part of the writer not to break the continuity of the account of Solomon's great buildings, the more so as they were all completed by the aid of Tyrian workmen, and under the supervision of Hiram. But another and more important consideration may also have influenced the arrangement of the narrative. For, as has been suggested, these two great undertakings of Solomon bore a close relation to each other. It was not an ordinary Sanctuary, nor was it an ordinary royal residence which Solomon reared. The building of the Temple marked that the preparatory period of Israel's unsettledness had passed, when God had walked with them "in tent and tabernacle" - or, in other words, that the Theocracy had attained not only fixedness, but its highest point, when God would set "His Name for ever" in its chosen center. But this new stage of the Theocracy was connected with the establishment of a firm and settled kingdom in Israel, when He would "establish the throne of that kingdom for ever" (compare 2 Samuel 7:5-16). Thus the dwelling of God in His Temple and that of Solomon in his house were events between which there was deep internal connection, even as between the final establishment of the Theocracy and that of David's royal line in Israel. Moreover, the king was not to be a monarch in the usual Oriental, or even in the ancient Western sense. He was to be regarded, not as the Vicegerent or Representative of God, but as His Servant, to do His behest and to guard His covenant. And this might well be marked, even by the conjunction of these two buildings in the Scripture narrative.
These considerations will also help us to understand why the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple was connected with that of Tabernacles (of course, in the year following). It was not only that, after "the eighth month," when the Temple was completed, it would have been almost impossible, considering the season of the year, to have gathered the people from all parts of the country, or to have celebrated for eight days a great popular festival; nor yet that of all feasts, that of Tabernacles, when agricultural labor was at an end, probably witnessed the largest concourse in Jerusalem.*
But the Feast of Tabernacles had a threefold meaning. It pointed back to the time when, "strangers and pilgrims" on their way to the Land of Promise, Israel, under its Divine leadership, had dwelt in tents. The full import of this memorial would be best realized at the dedication of the Temple, when, instead of tent and tabernacle, the glorious house of God was standing in all its beauty, while the stately palace of Israel's king was rising. Again, the Feast of Tabernacles was essentially one of thanksgiving, when at the completion, not only of the harvest, but of the ingathering of the fruits, a grateful people presented its homage to the God to Whom they owed all, and to Whom all really belonged. But what could raise this hymn of praise to its loudest strains, if not that they uplifted it within those sacred walls, symbolical of God's gracious Presence as King in His palace in the midst of His people, whose kingdom He had established. Lastly, the Feast of Tabernacles - the only still unfulfilled Old Testament type - pointed forward to the time of which the present state of Israel was an initial realization, when the name of the LORD should be known far and wide to earth's utmost bounds, and all nations seek after Him and offer worship in His Temple. Thus, however viewed, there was the deepest significance in the conjunction of the dedication of the Temple with the Feast of Tabernacles.
But, as previously stated, there is yet another question of somewhat greater difficulty which claims our attention. To judge by the arrangement of the narrative, the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8) might seem to have taken place after the completion of Solomon's palace, the building of which, as we know, occupied further thirteen years (1 Kings 7:1). Moreover, from the circumstance that the second vision of God was vouchsafed "when Solomon had finished the building of the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all Solomon's desire which he was pleased to do" (1 Kings 9:1), it has been argued, that the dedication of the Temple must have taken place immediately before this vision, especially as what was said to him seems to contain pointed reference to the consecration prayer of Solomon (1 Kings 9:3, 7, 8). But, even if that vision took place at the time just indicated,* the supposed inference from it cannot be maintained.
For, although part of the sacred vessels may have been made during the time that Hiram was engaged upon Solomon's palace, it is not credible that the Temple should, after its completion, have stood deserted and unused for thirteen years. Nor are the arguments in favor of this most improbable assumption valid. The appeal to 1 Kings 9:1 would oblige us to date the dedication of the Temple even later than the completion of Solomon's palace, viz., after he had finished all his other building operations. As for the words which the LORD spake to Solomon in vision (2 Kings 9:3-9), although bearing reference to the Temple and the king's dedication prayer, they are evidently intended rather as a general warning, than as an answer to his petition, and are such as would befit the period of temptation, before Solomon, carried away by the splendor of his success, yielded himself to the luxury, weakness, and sin of his older age. From all these considerations we conclude that the Feast of the Dedication, which lasted seven days, took place in the seventh month, that of Ethanim, or of "flowing brooks,"* (the later Tishri), of the year after the completion of the Temple (eleven months after it), and immediately before the Feast of Tabernacles, which, with the concluding solemnity, lasted eight days.
The account of the dedication of the Temple may be conveniently ranged under these three particulars, the Consecration-Services, the Consecration-Prayer, and the Consecration-Thanksgiving and Festive Offerings. But before describing them, it is necessary to call attention to the remarkable circumstance that the chief, if not almost the sole prominent agent in these services, was the king, the high-priest not being even mentioned. Not that Solomon in any way interfered with, or arrogated to himself the functions of the priesthood, but that, in the part which he took, he fully acted up to the spirit of the monarchical institution as founded in Israel. Solomon was not "king" according to the Saxon idea of cyning - cunning, mighty, illustrious, the embodiment of strength. According to the terms of the Covenant, all Israel were God's servants (Leviticus 25:42, 55; comp. Isaiah 41:8, 9; 44:1, 2, 21; 45:4; 49:3, 6; Jeremiah 30:10 and others). As such they were to be "a kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6) "the priest," in the stricter sense of the term, being only the representative of the people, with certain distinctive functions ad hoc. But what the nation was, as a whole, that Israel's theocratic king was pre-eminently the servant of the LORD (1 Kings 8:25, 28, 29, 52, 59). It was in this capacity that Solomon acted at the dedication of the Temple, as his own words frequently indicate (see the passages just quoted). In this manner the innermost and deepest idea of the character of Israel and of Israel's king as "the servant" of the LORD, became, so to speak, more and more individualized during the progress of the Old Testament dispensation, until it stood out in all its fullness in the Messiah - the climax of Israel and of Israelitish institutions - Who is the Servant of Jehovah. Thus we perceive that the common underlying idea of the three great institutions in Israel, which connected them all, was that of the Servant of Jehovah. The prophet who uttered the voice of heaven upon earth was the servant of Jehovah (comp., for example, Numbers 12:7, 8; Joshua 1:2; Isaiah 20:3, etc.).*
So was the priest, who spake the voice of earth to heaven; and the king, who made heaven's voice to be heard on earth. That which gave its real meaning equally to this threefold function; downwards, upwards, outwards - was the grand fact that in each of them it was the Servant of Jehovah who was acting, or, in other words, that God was all in all. With these general principles in view we shall be better able to understand what follows.
1. The Consecration-Services (1 Kings 8:1-21). - These commenced with the transference of the Ark and of the other holy vessels from Mount Zion, and of the ancient Mosaic Tabernacle from Gibeon. The latter and the various other relics of those earlier services were, as we have suggested, placed in the chambers built around the new Sanctuary. In accordance with the Divine direction, the whole of this part of the service was performed by the Priests and Levites, attended by the king, "the elders of Israel, the heads of the tribes, and the princes (of the houses) of the fathers of Israel," who, as representatives of the people, had been specially summoned for the purpose. As this solemn procession entered the sacred courts, amidst a vast concourse of people, numberless offerings were brought. Then the Ark was carried to its place in the innermost Sanctuary.* As the priests reverently retired from it, and were about to minister in the Holy Place,** - perhaps to burn incense on the Golden Altar - "the cloud," as the visible symbol of God's Presence, came down, as formerly at the consecration of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34, 35), and so filled the whole of the Temple itself, that the priests, unable to bear "the glory," had to retire from their ministry.
But even here also we mark the characteristic difference between the Old and the New Dispensations, to which St. Paul calls attention in another connection (2 Corinthians 3:13-18). For whereas, under the preparatory dispensation God dwelt in a "cloud" and in "thick darkness," we all now behold "the glory of God" in the Face of His Anointed.*
This was the real consecration of the Temple. And now the king, turning towards the Most Holy Place, filled with the Sacred Presence, spake these words of dedication, brief as became the solemnity, "Jehovah hath said, to dwell in darkness - Building, I have built an house of habitation to Thee, and a settling-place for Thy dwelling ever!" In this reference to what Jehovah had said, it would not be any single utterance which presented itself to Solomon's mind. Rather would he think of them in their connection and totality - as it were, a golden chain of precious promises welded one to the other, of which the last link seemed riveted to the solemnity then enacting. Such sayings as Exodus 19:9; 20:21; Leviticus 16:2; Deuteronomy 4:11; 5:22 would crowd upon his memory, and seem fully realized as he beheld the Cloudy Presence in the Holy House. Thus it is often not one particular promise or prophecy which is referred to when we read in Holy Scripture these words, "That it might be fulfilled," but rather a whole series which culminate in some one great fact (as, for example, in Matthew 2:15, 23). Nor should we forget that, when the king spoke of the Temple as God's dwelling for ever, the symbolical character alike of the manifestation of His Presence and of its place could not have been absent from his mind. But the symbolical necessarily implies the temporary, being of the nature of an accommodation to circumstances, persons, and times. What was for ever was not the form, but the substance - not the manner nor the place, but the fact of God's Presence in the midst of His people. And what is real and eternal is the Kingdom of God in its widest sense, and God's Presence in grace among His worshipping people, as fully realized in Jesus Christ.
When the king had spoken these words, he turned from the Sanctuary to the people who reverently stood to hear his benedictory "address."* Briefly recounting the gracious promises and experiences of the past, he pointed to the present as their fulfillment, specially applying to it, in the manner already described, what God had said to David (2 Samuel 7:7, 8).**
2. The Prayer of Consecration. - This brief address concluded, the king ascended the brazen pulpit-like platform "before the altar" (of burnt offering), and with his face, probably sideways, towards the people, knelt down with hands outspread in prayer (comp. 2 Chronicles 6:12, 13).
It seems like presumption and impertinence to refer in laudatory terms to what for comprehensiveness, sublimeness, humility, faith, and earnestness has no parallel in the Old Testament, and can only be compared with the prayer which our Lord taught His disciples.*
Like the latter, it consists of an introduction (1 Kings 8:23-30), of seven petitions (the covenant-number, vers. 31-53), and of a eulogetic close (2 Chronicles 6:40-42). The Introduction sounds like an Old Testament version of the words "Our Father" (vers. 23-26), "which art in heaven" (vers. 27-30). It would be out of place here to enter into any detailed analysis. Suffice it to indicate the leading Scriptural references in it, as it were, the spiritual stepping-stones of the prayer and one or another of its outstanding points. Marking how a review of the gracious dealings in the past should lead to confidence in present petitions (comp. Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; James 1:6), reference should be made in connection with verses 23-26 to the following passages: Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 4:39; 7:9; Joshua 2:11; 2 Samuel 7:12-22; 22:32; Psalm 86:8. In regard to the second part of the Introduction (vers. 27-30), we specially note the emphatic assertion, that He, Whose Presence they saw in the cloud, was really in "heaven," and yet "our Father," who art upon earth. These two ideas seem carried out in it, (1) not as heathenism does, do we locate God here; nor yet will we, as carnal Israel did (Jeremiah 7:4; Micah 3:11), imagine that ex opere operato (by any mere deed of ours) God will necessarily attend even to His own appointed services in His house. Our faith rises higher - from the Seen to the Unseen - from the God of Israel to our Father; it realizes the spiritual relationship of children, which alone contains the pledge of His blessing; and through which, though He be in heaven, yet faith knows and addresses Him as an ever-present help. Thus Solomon's prayer avoided alike the two extremes of unspiritual realism and of unreal spiritualism.
The first petition (vers. 31, 32) in the stricter sense opens the prayer, which in ver. 28 had been outlined, according to its prevailing characteristics, as "petition," "prayer for mercy" (forgiveness and grace), and "thanksgiving" (praise).*
It is essentially an Old Testament "Hallowed be Thy Name," in its application to the sanctity of an oath as its highest expression, inasmuch as thereby the reality of God's holiness is challenged. The analogy between the second petition (vers. 33, 34) and that in the Lord's Prayer is not so evident at first sight. But it is none the less real, since its ideal fulfillment would mark the coming of the kingdom of God, which neither sin from within nor enemy from without could endanger. The references in this petition seem to be to Leviticus 26:3, 7, 14, 17; Deuteronomy 28:1-7, 15-25; and again to Leviticus 26:33, and 40- 42, and Deuteronomy 4:26-28; 28:64-68, and 4:29-31; 30:1-5. The organic connection, so to speak, between heaven and earth, which lies at the basis of the third petition in the Lord's Prayer, is also expressed in that of Solomon (vers. 35, 36). Only in the one case we have the New Testament realization of that grand idea, or rather ideal, while in the other we have its Old Testament aspect. The references here are to Leviticus 26:19; Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23, 24. At the same time the rendering of our Authorized Version (1 Kings 8:35): "When Thou afflictest them," should be altered to, "Because Thou humblest them," which indicates the moral effect of God's discipline, and the last link in the chain of true repentance.
The correspondence between the fourth petition in the Solomonic (vers. 37- 40) and in our Lord's Prayer will be evident - always keeping in view the difference between the Old and the New Testament standpoint. But perhaps verses 38-40 may mark the transition from, and connection between the first and second parts of the prayer. The fifth petition (vers. 41-43), which concerns the acceptance of the prayers of strangers (not proselytes), is based on the idea of the great mutual forgiveness by those who are forgiven of God, fully realized in the abolition of the great enmity and separation, which was to give place to a common brotherhood of love and service - "that all the people of the earth may know Thy Name, to fear Thee, as Thy people Israel." Here also we note the difference between the Old and the New Testament form of the petition - a remark which must equally be kept in view in regard to the other two petitions. These, indeed, seem to bear only a very distant analogy to the concluding portion of the Lord's Prayer. Yet that there was real "temptation" to Israel, and real "deliverance from evil" sought in these petitions, appears from the language of confession put into the mouth of the captives (ver. 47), which, as we know, was literally adopted by those in Babylon* (Daniel 9:5; Psalm 106:6).
Here sin is presented in its threefold aspect as failure, so far as regards the goal, or stumbling and falling (in the Authorized Version "we have sinned"); then as perversion (literally, making crooked); and, lastly, as tumultuous rebellion (in the Authorized Version "committed wickedness"). Lastly, the three concluding verses (vers. 51-53)may be regarded either as the argument for the last petitions, or else as an Old Testament version of "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory." But the whole prayer is the opening of the door into heaven - a door moving, if the expression be lawful, on the two hinges of sin and of grace, of need and of provision.
3. The Consecration-Thanksgiving and Offerings. - To the prayer of Solomon, the descent of fire upon the great altar - probably from out the Cloudy Presence* - which is recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:1, seems a most appropriate answer,** (comp. Leviticus 9:24).
Little requires to be added to the simple account of what followed. Rising from his knees, the king turned once more to the people, and expressed the feelings of all in terms of mingled praise and prayer, basing them on such Scriptural passages as Deuteronomy 12:9, 10; Joshua 21:44, etc.; 23:14, and, in the second part of his address, on Leviticus 26:3-13; Deuteronomy 28:1-14. But it deserves special notice, that throughout (as Thenius has well remarked) the tone is of the loftiest spirituality. For, if the king asks for continued help and blessing from the Lord, it is for the express purpose "that He may incline our hearts to Him" (comp. Psalm 119:36; 141:4), "to keep His commandments" (1 Kings 8:58); and, if he looks for answers to prayer (ver. 59), it is "that all the people of the earth may know that Jehovah is God, and that there is none else" (ver. 60).
Lastly, we have an account of the vast number* of festive offerings which Solomon and all Israel** brought, and of the Feast of Tabernacles*** with which the solemn dedication-services concluded.
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