Friday, February 26, 2016

The Building of the Temple in 1st Kings, the 11th book of the Bible

In Hebrew the first book of Kings is “Mal-chim” which means “messengers” or “kings”. According to the Jewish Talmud this book was written by the prophet Jeremiah. The major themes are the death of David, the reign of Solomon, the building of the temple, the death of Solomon, the division of the kingdom and the ministry of Elijah. 1st Kings establishes the typology of Christ sitting on the Throne of Glory (2 kaph words). See the graph below for the distribution of the word “throne” in the 12 Old Testament history books.

The Hebrew word for throne appears 32 times!
Now let’s look at the temple that King Solomon built.
Read chapter 6, verses 1 – 6:
 1 In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD.
 2 The temple that King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high. 3 The portico at the front of the main hall of the temple extended the width of the temple, that is twenty cubits, and projected ten cubits from the front of the temple. 4 He made narrow windows high up in the temple walls. 5 Against the walls of the main hall and inner sanctuary he built a structure around the building, in which there were side rooms. 6 The lowest floor was five cubits wide, the middle floor six cubits and the third floor seven. He made offset ledges around the outside of the temple so that nothing would be inserted into the temple walls.
The temple sanctuary, which contained the Holy of Holies, was a rectangular building measuring about 90 feet long by 30 feet wide by 45 feet high. This assumes that the cubit is about 18 inches, though there is also the royal cubit from Egypt which is 20.5 inches making the measurements slightly larger. On the eastern side of the sanctuary was an enclosed porch that extended the width of the building. It projected about 15 feet from it and apparently formed a 180 foot high tower (you can cross reference 2nd Chronicles 3:4 if you want). Around the sanctuary building Solomon built a very curious honeycomb of rooms (maybe offices?). These rooms were arranged in three stories. Picture it: the lowest rooms were about 7.5 feet wide, the middle story rooms were about 9 feet wide and the upper rooms were about 10.5 feet wide.
In 1st Kings 6:6 we are told that Solomon built “offset ledges around the outside of the temple so that nothing would be inserted into the temple walls.” This indicates that the sides of the sanctuary must have had a step-like or terraced appearance during construction. The upper story offices each projected one cubit (18 inches) further toward the sanctuary interior than the room below. There seems to be no doubt that the exterior façade would have concealed this stepped feature once the building was completed. Within the south facing side of the compound was a winding stairway, maybe circular, maybe squarish, that gave access to the upper floors. Now look at the next verse, 1st Kings 6:7:
7 In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.
Wow! Think about that . . .  every stone was cut and polished and prepared for its exact position far away from the building site. Who does that? God does. This is just like how He is preparing us for how we will fit into His heavenly kingdom some day. As a matter of fact, the comparison goes pretty deep since Christians are referred to as “living stones” in 1st Peter 2:5 and we will be brought together into a “spiritual temple” according to 1st Corinthians 3:16.
More about the Solomon’s temple from verses 8 – 10:
 8 The entrance to the lowest floor was on the south side of the temple; a stairway led up to the middle level and from there to the third. 9 So he built the temple and completed it, roofing it with beams and cedar planks. 10 And he built the side rooms all along the temple. The height of each was five cubits, and they were attached to the temple by beams of cedar.
This must have been kind of lodge-like with all the cedar planks and beams. Then God gives a promise:
 11 The word of the LORD came to Solomon: 12 “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. 13 And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.”
What a wonderful promise that is for God’s chosen people. Now, really try to imagine the inside of the temple:
 14 So Solomon built the temple and completed it. 15 He lined its interior walls with cedar boards, paneling them from the floor of the temple to the ceiling, and covered the floor of the temple with planks of juniper. 16 He partitioned off twenty cubits at the rear of the temple with cedar boards from floor to ceiling to form within the temple an inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. 17 The main hall in front of this room was forty cubits long. 18 The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. Everything was cedar; no stone was to be seen.
I live in a full log home so I know how comforting it is to be in this kind of a warm, woodsy interior. Even the stone is covered by the cedar, but for the inner sanctuary God has Solomon use all that wealth that God blessed him with to decorate:
 19 He prepared the inner sanctuary within the temple to set the ark of the covenant of the LORD there. 20 The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar. 21 Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. 22 So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. He also overlaid with gold the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary.
 23 For the inner sanctuary he made a pair of cherubim out of olive wood, each ten cubits high. 24 One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long, and the other wing five cubits—ten cubits from wing tip to wing tip. 25 The second cherub also measured ten cubits, for the two cherubim were identical in size and shape. 26 The height of each cherub was ten cubits. 27 He placed the cherubim inside the innermost room of the temple, with their wings spread out. The wing of one cherub touched one wall, while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. 28 He overlaid the cherubim with gold.
 29 On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. 30 He also covered the floors of both the inner and outer rooms of the temple with gold.
Now you may have noticed the verses that explain the carving, size and overlaying in gold of the cherubim. In case you ever wondered, adding “im” is how you make a noun plural in Hebrew – one cherub, two cherubim. Let’s finish the temple now with verses 31 – 38:
 31 For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors out of olive wood that were one fifth of the width of the sanctuary. 32 And on the two olive-wood doors he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid the cherubim and palm trees with hammered gold. 33 In the same way, for the entrance to the main hall he made doorframes out of olive wood that were one fourth of the width of the hall. 34 He also made two doors out of juniper wood, each having two leaves that turned in sockets. 35 He carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers on them and overlaid them with gold hammered evenly over the carvings.
 36 And he built the inner courtyard of three courses of dressed stone and one course of trimmed cedar beams.
 37 The foundation of the temple of the LORD was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. 38 In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it.
Seven years! Most scholars think that was a long time for the building itself and so they think that the majority of the time spent must have been spent on all the carvings and the gold overlay. Though you can do a search on the internet and find lots of pictures of drawings and models, I don’t think you can imagine how magnificent and beautiful this temple must have been. Solomon dedicated the temple and said this in verse 23 of chapter 8:
   “LORD, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.”

There is no God like our God.