A Reflection on 1 Kings 5:13-6:14 for Sunday, June 21 at Mosaic Baptist Church
King Solomon conscripted forced labour out of all Israel; the levy numbered thirty thousand men. He sent them to the Lebanon, ten thousand a month in shifts; they would be a month in the Lebanon and two months at home; Adoniram was in charge of the forced labour. Solomon also had seventy thousand labourers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hill country, besides Solomon’s three thousand three hundred supervisors who were over the work, having charge of the people who did the work. At the king’s command, they quarried out great, costly stones in order to lay the foundation of the house with dressed stones. So Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites did the stonecutting and prepared the timber and the stone to build the house.
In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord. The house that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. The vestibule in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits wide, across the width of the house. Its depth was ten cubits in front of the house. For the house he made windows with recessed frames. He also built a structure against the wall of the house, running around the walls of the house, both the nave and the inner sanctuary; and he made side chambers all round. The lowest story was five cubits wide, the middle one was six cubits wide, and the third was seven cubits wide; for round the outside of the house he made offsets on the wall in order that the supporting beams should not be inserted into the walls of the house.
The house was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the temple while it was being built.
The entrance for the middle story was on the south side of the house: one went up by winding stairs to the middle story, and from the middle story to the third. So he built the house, and finished it; he roofed the house with beams and planks of cedar. He built the structure against the whole house, each story five cubits high, and it was joined to the house with timbers of cedar.
Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, ‘Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes, obey my ordinances, and keep all my commandments by walking in them, then I will establish my promise with you, which I made to your father David. I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.’
So Solomon built the house, and finished it.
1 Kings 5:13-6:14 (NRSVA)
Solomon, Hiram, and the Gebalites made quite a team. An international coalition was needed to build the temple Solomon had in mind. They gathered the very best materials and workers they could find.
It was not as big as one may imagine. The New Living Translation reads, ‘The temple Solomon built for the Lord was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high.’ (1 Kings 6:2). Although Solomon builds out from these dimensions, it is still not huge by today’s standards.
The passage above gives us a big picture of the scale, cost, and effort that went into building the temple for YHWH. It was clearly a huge undertaking involving vast amounts of time and labour.
It is, however, the word that came to Solomon that brings significance to this particular build: ‘Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes, obey my ordinances, and keep all my commandments by walking in them, then I will establish my promise with you, which I made to your father David. I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.’
A building is clearly not what YHWH is seeks. It is a symbol of the divine dwelling among the people of Israel. Indeed, the details of the most central and holy part of this temple (See 1 Kings 6:19-28) are something of a pattern of heaven. This temple is a little bit of heaven on earth. Perhaps we might say a glimpse of the union that YHWH desires with the people of the earth.
There is, however, a reality that all this symbolism points to. The fulfilling of the promise of God to dwell with his obedient people. David is their pattern. The whole nation is to become as faithful as Solomon’s father.
Not that David was perfect. Solomon – Bathsheba’s son – is testimony enough to that! David murdered Uriah, Bathsheba’s first husband, in order to have her. It came at a cost: the prophet’s exposure, the death of their first son, a marriage and offspring to remind David and others…
David was far from perfect. He great characteristic, I suspect, was not that he had no flaws. Rather, it was that he kept returning to his God. When David was rebuked by Nathan he responded with a dramatic – and public -repentance. It is a return.
For this, it would seem, David was known as the king with an exemplary heart. Acts 13:22 reads: ‘…“I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.”
This temple is a symbol of the hope and example of David spreading throughout Israel. A national reminder that the covenant relationship between David and YHWH is also offered to all Isrelites.
In fact it is offered even more widely than this. This temple is to proclaim to the nations that this is a possibility for all!
The New Testament speaks of both the believer’s heart and the church as the house or temple of God. How does this passage inform this image for you?
How do you think the international contribution to this building becomes a way of inviting the nations to look to YHWH?
How does the temple stand as a reminder to the people to take a ‘Spiritual Perspective’?