1 Kings 6: the House of the LORD (pt. 1)

We now come to the highlight of the Israelite identity – the first temple of the LORD, built by Solomon who was chosen by the LORD.  It is important for us to see that 1 Kings is not the only place where the building of the temple of spoken of, but also in 1 and 2 Chronicles where we not only see the Deuteronomist and historic view of the temple’s architecture, but the Christological meaning behind its several elements.  To begin with, in 1 Chronicles 28:5-8 we see that:

I Chronicles 28:5: And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons) he has chosen Solomon my son to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.

I Chronicles 28:6: He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.

I Chronicles 28:7: I will establish his kingdom forever if he continues strong in keeping my commandments and my rules, as he is today.’

I Chronicles 28:8: Now therefore in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God, observe and seek out all the commandments of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and leave it for an inheritance to your children after you forever.

Note how clearly we see the LORD identifying Solomon as the elected son of David, this peaceful man not only identified as the son of David but the son of God (1 Chronicles 28:6) – it is clear that Solomon is but another figurehead for the eternal kingdom of God.  Solomon shall by no means have an eternal kingdom, but the LORD’s establishment of Solomon’s kingdom forever (v.7) is entirely fulfilled in Christ Jesus who brought true peace in eternity (Revelation 22:5).  This temple is by no means an inanimate object of man’s sacrifice to God, but like the sacraments, it is very much an example of the gospel display to men, of God reaching out to men before we even knew Him.  For David, building the temple is an intensely spiritual activity which we cannot fully fathom unless, like Solomon, we were to “know the God of our father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind” (v.9 paraphrased).  We should also importantly observe that Solomon did not plan to build this temple; this oath, preparation and dedication began with David, this second king of Israel who was the only man provided with explicit instructions on how to build this great temple (1 Chronicles 28:19).  Solomon’s role was to fulfill what David had prepared, building the temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, the symbolic place where Jesus appeared to David his father on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (1 Chronicles 21:15), and more importantly where the Lamb of God would be provided and slaughtered in a more real manner than Isaac had been in Genesis 22.

Observe also the timeline in which this temple was made:

“The time when it began to be built is exactly set down. 1. It was just 480 years after the bringing of the children of Israel out of Egypt. Allowing forty years to Moses, seventeen to Joshua, 299 to the Judges, forty to Eli, forty to Samuel and Saul, forty to David, and four to Solomon before he began the work, we have just the sum of 480. So long it was after that holy state was founded before that holy house was built, which, in less than 430 years, was burnt by Nebuchadnezzar. It was thus deferred because Israel had, by their sins, rendered themselves unworthy of this honour, and because God would show how little he values external pomp and splendour in his service: he was in no haste for a temple. David’s tent, which was clean and convenient, though it was neither stately nor rich, nor, for aught that appears, ever consecrated, is called the house of the Lord (2 Sam. xii. 20), and served as well as Solomon’s temple; yet, when God gave Solomon great wealth, he put it into his heart thus to employ it, and graciously accepted him, chiefly because it was to be a shadow of good things to come, Heb. ix. 9.” – Matthew Henry

Here we must see progressive revelation of Christ at play – where Saul and David are differentiated by their very reprobation and election respectively; the rejecting of Saul as the man of physical charm, as the man elected by other men, compared against David the man after God’s heart, the man of covenant love with Saul’s son Jonathan, the man whom God elected and no other.  They are the two aspects of Israel which we see throughout the Old Testament, both born in periods of war and blood, just as Moses was the very representative of the law prior to his (non)-entrance to Canaan.

“What I mean is this. Jesus (Joshua), as I have now frequently remarked, who was called Oshea, when he was sent to spy out the land of Canaan, was named by Moses Jesus (Joshua). Why he did this you neither ask, nor are at a loss about it, nor make strict inquiries. Therefore Christ has escaped your notice; and though you read, you understand not; and even now, though you hear that Jesus is our Christ, you consider not that the name was bestowed on Him not purposelessly nor by chance. But you make a theological discussion as to why one ‘α’ was added to Abraham’s first name; and as to why one ‘ρ’ was added to Sarah’s name, you use similar high-sounding disputations.  But why do you not similarly investigate the reason why the name of Oshea the son of Nave (Nun), which his father gave him, was changed to Jesus (Joshua)? But since not only was his name altered, but he was also appointed successor to Moses, being the only one of his contemporaries who came out from Egypt, he led the surviving people into the Holy Land; and as he, not Moses, led the people into the Holy Land, and as he distributed it by lot to those who entered along with him, so also Jesus the Christ will turn again the dispersion of the people, and will distribute the good land to each one, though not in the same manner. For the former gave them a temporary inheritance, seeing he was neither Christ who is God, nor the Son of God; but the latter, after the holy resurrection, shall give us the eternal possession. The former, after he had been named Jesus (Joshua), and after he had received strength from His Spirit, caused the sun to stand still. For I have proved that it was Jesus who appeared to and conversed with Moses, and Abraham, and all the other patriarchs without exception, ministering to the will of the Father; who also, I say, came to be born man by the Virgin Mary, and I lives for ever. For the latter is He after whom and by whom the Father will renew both the heaven and the earth; this is He who shall shine an eternal light in Jerusalem; this is he who is the king of Salem after the order of Melchizedek, and the eternal Priest of the Most High. The former is said to have circumcised the people a second time with knives of stone (which was a sign of this circumcision with which Jesus Christ Himself has circumcised us from the idols made of stone and of other materials), and to have collected together those who were circumcised from the uncircumcision, i.e., from the error of the world, in every place by the knives of stone, to wit, the words of our Lord Jesus. For I have shown that Christ was proclaimed by the prophets in parables a Stone and a Rock. Accordingly the knives of stone we shall take to mean His words, by means of which so many who were in error have been circumcised from uncircumcision with the circumcision of the heart, with which God by Jesus commanded those from that time to be circumcised who derived their circumcision from Abraham, saying that Jesus (Joshua) would circumcise a second time with knives of stone those who entered into that holy land.” – Chapter CXIII.—Joshua was a figure of Christ. – Justin Martyr’s “Dialogue with Trypho”

Yet, Solomon and Joshua both play the role of fulfillment; where David the true king preaches and prepares for this temple which he hoped to build, this temple must be built only by Christ who prepares a house for us today (John 14:2-3).  Saul, like the Pharisaic Israelites, are ousted out of the picture in favour of the Christian line of prophets, priests, and kings like David, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist.  Yet it is Joshua and Solomon who shall replace Moses and David respectively, as the new age of salvation (from Oshea, meaning deliverer, to Yehoshua – meaning Jehovah delivered) and peace (ShalomoSolomon’s name meaning peaceful) are the true aims of what the Old Testament and the law have been pointing us towards – the fulfillment and enactment of the gospel in historic space.

This is why we can easily proclaim as in 1 Chronicles 6:18 – “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth?  Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!”  Note that in 1 Chronicles 6:21, God is listening from heaven His “dwelling place” – even Solomon recognizes that this temple bears typological meaning; a mere shadow compared to the true dwelling place greater than heaven and highest heaven.

Temple overview

1(A) In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel 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,(B) he began to build the house of the LORD. 2(C) The house that King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits[a] long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. 3The vestibule in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits long, equal to the width of the house, and ten cubits deep in front of the house. 4And(D) he made for the house windows with recessed frames.[b] 5(E) He also built a structure[c] against the wall of the house, running around the walls of the house, both the nave and(F) the inner sanctuary. And he made(G) side chambers all around. 6The lowest story[d] was five cubits broad, the middle one was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad. For around 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 building of the temple began in Solomon’s fourth year of reign, in the month of Ziv, the second month.  It is interesting to note that it is the second month in the ecclesiastical year, with the first month starting with Nisan – making Ziv the 8th month of the civil year (with the 1st civil year being Tishrei) – and it is in the month of Ziv that we have the Second Passover of Nisan 14, a year after the Exodus, in Numbers 9:11.  This “pesach sheini” is for anyone who was unable to bring the offering on its appointed time in the previous month, due to being unclean or otherwise.

Further, on the Ziv 20, we learn that this is the day that the Israelites depart their encampment near Mount Sinai and continue their journey when the pillar of cloud rose from over the tabernacle, a resumption of their travel into the Holy Land.

In both circumstances, we see a continuation of a work begun; the second Passover, the continuing travels after having already rested at Mt. Sinai; and so it is true with the meaning of the month “Ziv” – which means light, glow, oftentimes a period of blossoming in the season of spring.  It is a time of renewed life.  After twelve judges (Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson) and two kings (Saul and David), spanning over a period of 480 years (roughly averaging 30 to 40 years per judge / king), Solomon began to build the house of the LORD.  Not Hiram; not the skilled workers – but Solomon is the builder.  Hear the words of Matthew Henry on David’s preparation and Solomon’s building:

“It was in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, the first three years being taken up in settling the affairs of his kingdom, that he might not find any embarrassment from them in this work. It is not time lost which is spent in composing ourselves for the work of God, and disentangling ourselves from every thing which might distract or divert us. During this time he was adding to the preparations which his father had made (1 Chron. xxii. 14), hewing the stone, squaring the timber, and getting every thing ready, so that he is not to be blamed for slackness in deferring it so long. We are truly serving God when we are preparing for his service and furnishing ourselves for it.”

House Structure (v.2-3)

“The house that King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits[a] long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. 3The vestibule in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits long, equal to the width of the house, and ten cubits deep in front of the house.

Note in particular the similarity in structure between the Temple and the tabernacle; as if the Temple is but a house of the tabernacle which had already been built by God’s direction through Moses.  We begin with the vestibule, the entrance of the Temple, clearly measured 20 (width) x 10 (depth) cubits

It is here that we see the two pillars, Jachin (in the south) and Boaz (in the north) (1 Kings 7:21), both meaning the LORD shall establish and strength respectively.  The entrance of the Temple is thus established, but note that these are hollow pillars (Jeremiah 52:21) – it is thus apparent that the true support of the entrance of the Temple does not come from these pillars; observe how they were not made until one chapter later.  At this moment, we have only but the vestibule – and no pillars.

House windows (v.4)

4And(D) he made for the house windows with recessed frames.[b]

We begin with the inside of the house windows with recessed frames; though there is indication that this may be related to the lampstands of pure gold (akin to the lampstand of the tabernacle), with the lamps arranged before the LORD regularly (Leviticus 24:4); or even that the lamps may burn throughout the evening (2 Chronicles 13:11); yet nothing is spoken of regarding the lampstand or the lamps at this stage.  What we have is the first mention of windows with recessed frames, such windows located high on the side of the nave – and what are these but the windows of heaven from where the LORD provide such blessings (Malachi 3:10; 2 Kings 7:1-2), the blessing coming from the outside in, painting it with the gold of righteousness rather than the Babylonian vermilion (Jeremiah 22:14; Ezekiel 23:14-15).  Immediately, instead of focusing on the glory within the temple, we are brought to see the blessings coming from the righteous King – He is the one who dwells in the heavens, and it is the windows of heaven that we receive the truth and the Father’s Word.  The temple, however grand, is but a shadow, in comparison to the Word who descends from heaven (John 6:31-51).

Three stories of side chambers (v.5-6)

Three floors (v.5-6)

5(E) He also built a structure[c] against the wall of the house, running around the walls of the house, both the nave and(F) the inner sanctuary. And he made(G) side chambers all around.  6 The lowest story was five cubits broad, the middle one was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad. For around 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.”

From v.6 we find that the side chambers, in accumulation of their widths, bear the same accumulated width as the height as the pillars (1 Kings 7:15) – 5 + 6 + 7 cubits accumulating to 18 cubits, with broader and broader and broadest space on the third story.  Being the side foundation of the temple, as “offsets” (v.6), we find a similar architecture in the very ark of God in Genesis 6:16:

Genesis 6:16: Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks.

And once again in Ezekiel 42:

Ezekiel 42:1-9: Then he led me out into the outer court, toward the north, and he brought me to the chambers that were opposite the separate yard and opposite the building on the north. 2 The length of the building whose door faced north was a hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty cubits.  3 Facing the twenty cubits that belonged to the inner court, and facing the pavement that belonged to the outer court, was gallery against gallery in three stories.  4 And before the chambers was a passage inward, ten cubits wide and a hundred cubits long, and their doors were on the north.  5 Now the upper chambers were narrower, for the galleries took more away from them than from the lower and middle chambers of the building. 6 For they were in three stories, and they had no pillars like the pillars of the courts. Thus the upper chambers were set back from the ground more than the lower and the middle ones. 7 And there was a wall outside parallel to the chambers, toward the outer court, opposite the chambers, fifty cubits long. 8 For the chambers on the outer court were fifty cubits long, while those opposite the nave were a hundred cubits long. 9 Below these chambers was an entrance on the east side, as one enters them from the outer court.

In the words of Matthew Henry:

“The chambers are described (v. 5, 6), which served as vestries, in which the utensils of the tabernacle were carefully laid up, and where the priests dressed and undressed themselves and left the clothes in which they ministered: probably in some of these chambers they feasted upon the holy things. Solomon was not so intent upon the magnificence of the house as to neglect the conveniences that were requisite for the offices thereof, that every thing might be done decently and in order. Care was taken that the beams should not be fastened in the walls to weaken them, v. 6. Let not the church’s strength be impaired under pretence of adding to its beauty or convenience.”

Why is it that there are three stories to the side chambers?  Perhaps this question will soon be answered, but not before we are immediately brought back to the stone which was prepared at the quarry.

Stone (v.7)

7When the house was built,(H) it was with stone prepared at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built.

Just as in Deuteronomy 27:5 and Joshua 8:31, the temple is built on stone which is not sculpted by hammer, axe, nor any tool of iron which could be heard in the house.  This was prepared elsewhere in the quarry – and yet such a specific instruction was not provided except to Moses and to Joshua with regards to the building of an altar of worship, on which is offered burnt and peace offerings.  Unlike any altar, this entire temple is built on the foundation of propitiatory worship, the Stone of God who was not struck (Exodus 12:46; Numbers 20:10-13) and the water is to flow from Him naturally without human intervention as He is the unblemished lamb, bearing only the Father’s wrath.

8The entrance for the lowest[e] story was on the south side of the house, and one went up by stairs to the middle story, and from the middle story to the third. 9(I) So he built the house and finished it, and he made the ceiling of the house of beams and planks of cedar. 10He built the structure against the whole house, five cubits high, and it was joined to the house with timbers of cedar.

To sum up – the inside of the temple which emulates the holy place and the holy of holies of the tabernacle, respectively symbolizing the spiritual church of Christ and the third heaven where the Father sits, is coupled with the windows of heaven in the nave of the temple which brings in the light of Christ, the bread from heaven.  And this is but covered on all three sides by the three stories of side rooms, which by ascension brings the priest to third heaven.  Is this not true of the chambers which house the priestly work (Ezra 8:29; Nehemiah 10:37-39; Ezekiel 42:13, 46:19)?  Are not these holy chambers where the priests shall eat the most holy offerings?  And yet it is in this area of exclusive offering, just as the High Priest has exclusive access to the Holy of Holies as our sole mediator, that we see an actual re-enactment of such messengers, such angels, ascending and descending on the very sides of the temple – akin to the angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder (Genesis 28:12), the ladder who is the Son of Man (John 1:51), caught in the third heaven – the third story (2 Corinthians 12:2), just as the High Priest is caught in the Holy of Holies.  Note also that there are entrances in both the south and the north of the temple akin to what is mentioned in Ezekiel 46:9 and as Matthew Henry notes: Some observe that this may remind us, in the service of God, to be still pressing forward (Phil. iii. 13) and not to look back, and, in our attendance upon ordinances, not to go back as we came, but more holy, and heavenly, and spiritual.” Indeed, like Lot’s wife who had looked back on her previous ‘glory’ in Sodom and Gomorrah and her reward was to be transformed into a pillar of salt, so also we look forward to the new creation, to a renewed third heaven joining with earth, rather than our old glory from Eden to Canaan – but to look from Canaan to True Canaan.

Frame completed (v.11-13)

11Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon, 12“Concerning this house that you are building,(J) if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you,(K) which I spoke to David your father. 13And(L) I will dwell among the children of Israel(M) and will not forsake my people Israel.”

Solomon failed this command, for it relates exclusively to Christ who can walk in His statutes, rules and commandments – the establishment of His Word is but the Word of God, spoken to David (or more literally, the rising of the Word of the LORD with David – ְּדבִרי ־ ֶאת והִקֹמִתי u·eqmthi ath – dbr·i).  Note the timing of the LORD speaking to Solomon concerning His word which came immediately after Solomon had finished building the basic structure of the temple.  The command to walk in His statutes and obey his rules and keep all his commandments and walk in them is an echo of what David had commanded Solomon (no doubt, as directed by the LORD – 1 Chronicles 28:19), and solidifies the fact that this house of the LORD is made of the Stone of Life, such stone contributing to the building of a house and altar of worship.  For it is in this propitiatory worship of burnt and peace offerings will we see the LORD dwelling among the children of Israel.  All the instructions thereafter regarding the items of the temple shall therefore contribute to the baseline message of the temple being an altar of worship; the temple being a type of Christ Himself.  He who is the Rock, the cornerstone; He who is the ladder in humiliation and ascension to third heaven; He who descends from this very third heaven as the bread of life – and it is for this reason that the temple shall be destroyed as a fulsome statement that Christ has always been this temple.  That the temple pointed clearly towards the obedience of Christ, in bringing the church (in the nave) to the inner sanctuary as third heaven; in the ascending priest in the side chambers dedicated to holiness.

Note especially that from v.10 we already learned that the side rooms are joined to the house with timbers of cedar, and furthermore that the ceiling of the house were made of beams and planks of cedar.  What is the significance of such “cedar”?  Let’s see its usage throughout the rest of the building of the house as well:

Other materials of the house (v.14-22)

Wood (v.14-18)

14(N) So Solomon built the house and finished it. 15He lined the walls of the house on the inside with boards of cedar. From the floor of the house to the walls of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood,(O) and he covered the floor of the house with boards of cypress. 16(P) He built twenty cubits of the rear of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the walls, and he built this within as an inner sanctuary, as(Q) the Most Holy Place. 17The house, that is, the nave in front of the inner sanctuary, was forty cubits long. 18The cedar within the house was carved in the form of(R) gourds and open flowers. All was cedar; no stone was seen.

It appears from v.14-18 that the beams, planks and boards of cedar are not only used to cover the ceiling of the house, connecting the side rooms, but also used as the inside wall-lining (the outside being the stone prepared at the quarry), from the floor of the house to the walls of the ceiling (v.15), the floor being covered with cypress.  Even the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, was internally covered with boards of cedar – leading to a very wholesome coverage of the inside of the temple by cedar, carved in the form of gourds and open flowers (v.18 – such flowery decoration also made in Exodus 25:31-34, Numbers 8:4; and mentioned as elements of blossoming in Song of Solomon 2:12, though oftentimes used as a parable for the short life-span of men made of dust – Isaiah 40:6-8, 1 Peter 1:24), creating a huge elemental and symbolic contrast between the stony exterior and the cedar, and flowery interior, though reminding us that such beauty of the first temple is but a witness to the everlasting blossoming of New Jerusalem.

To turn back to the wood, of all elements, why “cedar” and “cypress”?

Oftentimes, cedar (especially cedar in Lebanon 1 Kings 5:6, Lebanon as a country often referenced as a land of great fruit (Psalm 72:16), of great fragrance (Song of Solomon 4:11, Hosea 14:6), of great streams (Song of Solomon 4:15), of great beauty (Song of Solomon 5:15), of great wine (Hosea 14:7) – all signified by its name which means “white” as the white mountain range of Syria, such purity associated to the very temple of God) are referred to as strong wood (“the righteous…grow like a cedar in Lebanon” – Psalm 92:12), similar to cypress trees which also grow strong among the trees of the forest (Isaiah 44:14), and is compared in contrast to thorns (Isaiah 55:13), such beautiful wood representing the glory of Lebanon (Isaiah 60:13) described as beautifying the house of the LORD.  The reddish and odiferous cedar is used in contrast to the acacia wood, the word representing the “thorn” – and in both instances we find the wood used for the tabernacle (Exodus 25-38) and the temple respectively similarly covered with gold.  This symbolically pushes us in the direction of new creation glory in those who are protected by the aromatic, durable and insect repelling acacian, cedar and cypress wood, for it is in the red blood of the cross and the thorns of Christ’s crown that we see can stand firmly in the house of the LORD un-condemned, the true glory of such wood revealed by its new external surface of gold rather than such Christian symbols representing mere secular mediocrity.

Gold (v.19-22)

19The inner sanctuary he prepared in the innermost part of the house, to set there the ark of the covenant of the LORD. 20The inner sanctuary[f] was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high, and he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid[g] an altar of cedar. 21And Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, and he drew chains of gold across, in front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. 22And he overlaid the whole house with gold, until all the house was finished.(S) Also the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.

Inner sanctuary (akin to the layout of the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle – Exodus 26:31-37, shaped in a cube; the Holy of Holies was 15 feet in height, width and length) here is measured as twenty cubits long, wide and high – and both the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle and the inner sanctuary clearly point towards the cubic new creation city of Jerusalem in Revelation 21:16 (12,000 stadia in height, width, and length).    Note also that, like the tabernacle (Exodus 25-28), all in the inner sanctuary is made golden (v.20-23) – in reminiscence of the true El Dorado – the true city of gold, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), as we will later find that not only the inner sanctuary but also the rest of the temple is overlaid with gold (2 Chronicles 3:7).  This is also not just any gold – but the gold of the oriental east, the gold of Parvaim.  Indeed, by the hands of Gentiles, by the resources of Hiram, by the gold of the East, and by the Spirit of God through Solomon the typological son of God, we are brought to a physical image of the new heavenly city to come – and it would not be complete without God’s presence with us in the temple for new creation is not complete without Him being with us (Luke 1:32; Acts 2:33; Revelation 21:3).  It is therefore most important that the one thing not replaced or renewed in this temple is the very ark of the covenant, who has remained unchanged just as the LORD will dwell with us in His unchanging full glory:

“Solomon made every thing new, and more magnificent than it had been, except the ark, which was still the same that Moses made, with its mercy-seat and cherubim; that was the token of God’s presence, which is always the same with his people whether they meet in tent or temple, and changes not with their condition.”

Which brings us to the golden chariot throne – note the difference also between the Deuteronomist and the Chronicler in recounting the building of the temple – especially the omission of the golden chariot throne in the inner sanctuary which is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 29:18, screened by a veil of blue, purple and crimson, woven with fine linen and embroidered with cherubim (2 Chronicles 3:14), a combination of colours of royalty and judgment first mentioned in the instructions for the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:4; 26:1, 4, 31, 36; 27:16; 28:5-8, 15, 33-37).  It is the Father who shall sit on this throne, fellowshipping with us.

“The Chronicler described the holy of holies as ‘the house of the kapporet’ (1 Chronicles 28:11).  The translation of kapporet is an interesting indication of the translators’ concerns.  We are invited to think of the kapporet as an adjunct of the ark which held the ten commandments, its lid or its cover, whereas in fact the kapporet was the throne or the symbol of the throne, the central feature of the temple, the place where the LORD appeared (Leviticus 16:2).  In the temple, where the cherubim over the ark were the huge creatures which formed the golden throne in the holy of holies, it was the LORD who was the enthroned there: ‘Thou who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth’ (Psalms 80:11), or the human king who was the LORD with his people, Immanuel.  Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king, wrote the Chronicler, and the people worshipped him, Solomon (1 Chronicles 29.20, 23).  Enthronement on the kapporet was the final stage in theosis, which, as we have seen, was resurrection.  The Lamb enthroned in the Book of Revelation is one with God.  ‘The throne of God and of the Lamb’ shall be there and they shall ‘worship him’ (singular; Revelation 22:3).” – Margaret Barker in “Temple Theology”

Cherubim (v.23-29)

23(T) In the inner sanctuary(U) he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high. 24Five cubits was the length of one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the length of the other wing of the cherub; it was ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. 25The other cherub also measured ten cubits; both cherubim had the same measure and the same form. 26The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was that of the other cherub. 27He put the cherubim in the innermost part of the house.(V) And the wings of the cherubim were spread out so that a wing of one touched the one wall, and a wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; their other wings touched each other in the middle of the house. 28And he overlaid the cherubim with gold.

In this inner sanctuary we do not immediately move to the overlaying of gold; but instead, we are first brought to the witnessing of the joint cherubim covering the width of this temple’s Holy of Holies (v.24-25), being ten cubits high (v.23, 26) and ten cubits wide from the tip of one wing to the tip of another.  This is reflective of the cherubim being the sent ones which carry the throne (Isaiah 37:16; Ezekiel 10:1-2), once again indicating that this temple, this altar of worship made of the Stone of Life, is reflective of the spiritual reality of third heaven which Moses had similarly received (Hebrews 8:5).  In this inner sanctuary, the High Priest peers into what no man could peer except through the High Priest.  To overlay the olivewood cherubim with gold (2 Chronicles 3:10) is, akin to the overlaying of gold in the entire inner sanctuary (v.20-22), matching the majesty of the third heaven which is unlike what we have perceived as righteousness on our side of creation (symbolized by the strong, colourful, odiferous cedar and cypress wood).  What is further revealed by the Chronicler is that the house was adorned not only with the beautiful Stone, the work on which was not heard in the temple, inlaid with cedar and cypress wood and overlaid in the inner sanctuary by gold – but also that the house was set with precious stones (reminding us of the precious stones used in Exodus 28) and gold of Parvaim, which is the lining of the whole house, its beams, thresholds, walls and doors (v.30; 2 Chronicles 3:7).

Unlike cedar and cypress, this olive wood which the cherubim are made of is often referred to as a life-giving plant, beautiful with good fruit (Psalms 52:8; Jeremiah 11:16).  Furthermore, it has also been related in parallel two the temple lampstands (Revelation 11:4) by which light, representing the Holy Spirit (Exodus 25:31-40; Zechariah 4:1-6) tells us much about the reason why olive is used in relation to the cherubim.

29Around all the walls of the house he carved engraved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms. 30The floor of the house he overlaid with gold in the inner and outer rooms.

Finally, note also that the cherubim do not only surround the throne, but also engraved around the walls of the house (2 Chronicles 3:7) alongside palm trees and open flowers.  The golden cherubim, palm trees and open flowers etched into the wall and standing firm in over the throne and mercy seat of the Ark of Covenant in the Holy of Holies.  This particular instruction concords with the artistic inclusion of the cherubim in the curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26, 36, 37, 37:9 especially which points to the cherubim overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, the combination of cherubim around the Father’s throne, and the guardian cherub guarding the way to the tree of life in Genesis 3:24).

It would seem, however, that the new inclusions would be the gourds, palm trees and open flowers.  Such palm trees, like cedar, are referred to as a flourishing tree by which the righteous are compared (Exodus 15:27; Psalm 92:12), furthermore that such palm trees even becoming the identifying factor of a landmark city like Jericho (2 Chronicles 28:15).  Jericho is known as a city of fragrance, fenced in the midst of a vast grove of palm trees in the plain of Jordan over the place where the river was crossed by Israel in Joshua 3:16, one of the most important cities to devote to destruction / holiness to the LORD prior to Israel’s inhabitation of the remainder of Canaan.  If such palm trees signify such peace and rest (akin to the narrative in Exodus 15:27) and victory over Canaan, then it makes sense for its usage in John 12:13, representing Hosanna, the very eternal salvation fulfilled in Christ and only typologically fulfilled in the conquering of Canaan through Jericho.

The Entrances into the Inner Sanctuary and the Nave of the Temple (v.31-35)

31For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors of olivewood; the lintel and the doorposts were five-sided.[h] 32He covered the two doors of olivewood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. He overlaid them with gold and spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees. 33So also he made for the entrance to the nave doorposts of olivewood, in the form of a square, 34and two doors of cypress wood.(W) The two leaves of the one door were folding, and the two leaves of the other door were folding. 35On them he carved cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, and he overlaid them with gold evenly applied on the carved work.

Once again, the symbolic olivewood, the same wood used to make the cherubim in the inner sanctuary, is the material used for the inner sanctuary – and the lintel and the doorposts were five-sided, enabling a folding effect on these two doors.  To carry on the theme of the temple, carvings of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers are used as well, unsurprisingly overlaid with gold.

The same material is also used for the entrance to the nave doorposts, though the doors themselves are made of cypress wood.  Such beautiful wood opening us into the nave of the temple, into the very church of Christ; and it is by the five-sided double doors of olivewood that we are brought into the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary.

There seems to be a stark difference in the entrance here compared to the entrance to the tabernacle, both facing the east.  Where the tent of entrance into the tabernacle had no cherubim etched into the veil (Exodus 26:36), representing the cherub only standing between us and the tree of life in Genesis 3:24 (also at the east entrance of the garden), representing the veil between the Holy of Holies and Holy Place (Exodus 26:31-35) – yet it would appear that the gold is both on the inside and outside of the temple here (unlike any other part of the temple).  Only by this entrance are we invited to see the inside of what the temple is like, when the entrance outside could have remained purely olivewood.

Aside from the repeated use of such symbolic elements, note also how the two leaves of either doors into the nave were folding, reminiscent of the healing leaves of the nations as the very entrance of the door to the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12; Revelation 22:2).

Inner court (v.36)

36(X) He built the inner court with three courses of cut stone and one course of cedar beams.

Note finally the inner court which was built with cut stone and barely with cedar beams; such a large contrast outside the temple compared with the inside which is overlaid evenly with the golden glory of new creation, glorifying and refining (Malachi 3:2-3) the wood of olive, cedar, and cypress, shaped into open flowers, gourds, palm trees and cherubim.  Such stone is indicatively cut here in comparison to the stone prepared in the quarry, and the uncut stone of the altar of worship in (Deuteronomy 27:5) – defining those who, though standing in the inner court of the temple’s presence, is still standing outside the church of Christ though receiving the heavenly sacrament of His Word in the combination of the symbolic cedar beams and equally symbolic cut stone, representing the work to being made in this creation but compared against the stone on which no work in the vicinity of the temple has been done, representing the work completed in new creation.

Temple completed (v.37-38)

37(Y) In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid, in the month of Ziv. 38And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it.

And so, the building of the temple began in the significant month of Ziv in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, and ended seven years afterwards, in the month of Bul (meaning rainy) – the eighth month of the ecclesiastical (second month of the civil) year.  Interestingly, this is the same period of time of David’s ruling over Judah (2 Samuel 5:5), and this month is often referred to as a bitter month of no holidays nor special fasts, a month representing rain and judgment.  Thus the temple was built upon the timing and premise of “second chances” of Passover, but ending in an empty month of Rachel’s Yartzeit (11 Bul); the beginning of the Noahic global flood (17 Bul), the same day as the completion of this first temple, though not inaugurated until the following Tishrei in 2 Chronicles 5; that though it is completed in the month of the flood, it is truly inaugurated in the month of the first creation of Adam and Eve on Tishrei 1st, and the same month of the “second chance” fulfilled by the Day of Atonement on Tishrei 10th – Leviticus 16.  Let us end, once again, learn to encounter Christ not only through the tabernacle, not only through Solomon’s first temple, but most importantly to see Him as the Plumb Line, the uncut Stone, the Chief Sent One, the inspiration of Ezekiel’s temple all of which is fully revealed in New Jerusalem:

“Let us now see what was typified by this temple. 1. Christ is the true temple; he himself spoke of the temple of his body, John ii. 21. God himself prepared him his body, Heb. x. 5. In him dwelt the fulness of the Godhead, as the Shechinah in the temple. In him meet all God’s spiritual Israel. Through him we have access with confidence to God. All the angels of God, those blessed cherubim, have a charge to worship him. 2. Every believer is a living temple, in whom the Spirit of God dwells, 1 Cor. iii. 16. Even the body is such by virtue of its union with the soul, 1 Cor. vi. 19. We are not only wonderfully made by the divine providence, but more wonderfully made anew by the divine grace. This living temple is built upon Christ as its foundation and will be perfected in due time. 3. The gospel church is the mystical temple; it grows to a holy temple in the Lord (Eph. ii. 21), enriched and beautified with the gifts and graces of the Spirit, as Solomon’s temple with gold and precious stones. Only Jews built the tabernacle, but Gentiles joined with them in building the temple. Even strangers and foreigners are built up a habitation of God, Eph. ii. 19, 22. The temple was divided into the holy place and the most holy, the courts of it into the outer and inner; so there are the visible and the invisible church. The door into the temple was wider than that into the oracle. Many enter into profession that come short of salvation. This temple is built firm, upon a rock, not to be taken down as the tabernacle of the Old Testament was. The temple was long in preparing, but was built at last. The top-stone of the gospel church will, at length, be brought forth with shoutings, and it is a pity that there should be the clashing of axes and hammers in the building of it. Angels are ministering spirits, attending the church on all sides and all the members of it. 4. Heaven is the everlasting temple. There the church will be fixed, and no longer movable. The streets of the new Jerusalem, in allusion to the flooring of the temple, are said to be of pure gold, Rev. xxi. 21. The cherubim there always attend the throne of glory. The temple was uniform, and in heaven there is the perfection of beauty and harmony. In Solomon’s temple there was no noise of axes and hammers. Every thing is quiet and serene in heaven; all that shall be stones in that building must in the present sate of probation and preparation be fitted and made ready for it, must be hewn and squared by divine grace, and so made meet for a place there.” – Matthew Henry

1 Kings 6: the House of the LORD (pt. 1)

4 thoughts on “1 Kings 6: the House of the LORD (pt. 1)

  1. Great Article. Love the details and the photos.

    Could the palm tree have been part of a problem solver in the temple? Without the wood, it would have been impossible to hear. Coversation beyond 3 ft wouldn’t happen. If God spoke in an audible voice in the Holy of Holies there is no way a Prohpet or priest would have been able to hear the message. The Palm Trees and Cherub carvings on the wall would have been a means of controlling the reverberation of the room to create a signal to noise ratio large enough that in the Holy Place (The larger room) you would have been able to hear from end to end.This would also apply in the Holy of Holies but even better because the two large Cherubims. With the photo you provide the depth of the carving would have been enough to create an excellent acoustical space.

  2. Jacky says:

    Hi Joseph, welcome to the blog.

    Never seen it this way – but I do wonder, why would conversation beyond 3 feet be difficult? Indeed, perhaps God’s design of the temple is not merely symbolic but has its practical benefits too!

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