See my commentary on the making of the temple from here onwards.
Let me re-emphasise the importance of distinguishing between Solomon delegating the work of building the temple and being described as actually, first-hand, building it. As was the case in 2 Chronicles 3:1 – “Solomon began to build the house of the LORD…”, chapter 3:8 – “And he made the Most Holy Place…”, followed by chapter 4:1, “He made an altar of bronze…”, v.6 – “He also made ten basins…”, v.7-9 – “And he made ten golden lampstands as prescribed… He also made ten tables and placed them in the temple… He made the court of the priests…”.
Compare this immediately with Hiram’s contribution to the temple building – “Hiram also made the pots, the shovels, and the basins. So Hiram finished the work that he did for King Solomon on the house of God” (consisting of the pillars, the latticework on the pillars, the stands, and the equipment – see v.12-16). This is a firm reminder that the foundation of the temple, just as the foundation of the gospel, was not laid down by an Israelite – but by a person of mixed heritage, perhaps even a non-Israelite – such that Abraham himself was not even an Israelite, a time long before the nation Israel even existed. However, apart from the materials and a skilled man (see chapter 2:13-16), Hiram’s fundamental contributions are not symbolic to the same extent as Solomon’s role in the temple building which the LORD has clearly reserved for this typological son, more fitting even than David. Solomon’s contributions and the things he has built (the Holy Place; the temple furniture; priestly court) are of substance to the meaning of the temple, and Hiram’s service is but a setting up of the scene for Solomon and His LORD and Father to receive the first and last credit.
Finally, the most important furniture of the temple, being the Ark of Covenant, in which are the two tablets of Moses (v.10) and brought to its resting place – symbolically, “Zion” (as opposed to its common name, Jerusalem) – the city of God (Hebrews 12:22) though often referred typologically as the city of David (c.f. 2 Samuel 5:7). The movement of the Ark to the temple mount at Moriah upon the completion of the Temple, with cherubim spreading out their wings over the place of the ark (v.8) is thus foreshadowing of Christ’s second return and the Father finally coming to meet us face-to-face in New Creation at the end of Christ’s on-going work in the current end-times:
“The “Mercy Seat”, the gold used for the entire structure (made of wood) should also be considered as a throne – in 1 Samuel 4:4 the language used is that the ark of the covenant is enthroned between the cherubim. No doubt, this ark also symbolised the throne of the Father in heaven – c.f. Daniel 7:9-10 and Revelation 4:1-3. The former book speaks of the Ancient of Days, whose throne was flaming with fire, and wheels were all ablaze. The latter letter speaks of the throne in heaven where a rainbow, resembling an emerald encircled the throne. Although the throne was spoken of in two different manners, the lake of fire coming out from the throne is akin to the lake of fire referred to in Revelation 20:15. However, the throne of the Father in heaven, if speaking of the covenant rainbow established after the global diluvian punishment, then the message spoken of is that of peace and eternity, rather than contention and eternal hell. Then there is Isaiah 37:16 who speaks of the LORD who dwells between the cherubim; and Ezekiel 1:4-5, 26-28 speaks of four living creatures and the throne of God…” (taken from here)
The whole picture is of the Father meeting us at Moriah from Zion, the city of God, founded on the Son’s sacrifice on the cross as witnessed by the laws and tablets of Moses (John 1:45; Acts 26:22, 28:23) as kept by the Ark of Covenant (c.f. chapter 6:11). This is indeed the whole gospel – not just that of Christ on the cross, but what the event points towards, which is our fellowship with the Trinity in New Creation. It is this reason that the Levitical singers praise Him – “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (v.13). And what is “love” if not Christ the Person (as commonly misunderstood in 1 Corinthians 13!)?
Hence the beauty that is chapter 6 – Solomon’s actual understanding of what the Temple represents. This should very much characterise Israel as a nation and whether it fails or continues to act as the ordained national priesthood for other nations (Exodus 19:6) just as the Levites are to Israel. The LORD would only dwell with us through the Temple, through the various symbolic messages communicated in the Temple furniture, all of which is a “multimedia representation” (stated by Paul Blackham, in his explanation of the tabernacle to a Bible study meeting in All Souls in 2007) of the gospel. Solomon is writing in a format slightly similar to that of the Book of Proverbs, a question followed by an answer, a statement followed by a seemingly contradictory statement. See v.5 where he recites that the LORD has brought His people out of Egypt but chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel, and chose no man as prince over Israel; yet He has also chosen Jerusalem (admittedly, not a name of any of the tribes of Israel) and has also chosen a man, David, as prince over Israel (1 Samuel 13:14; and now Solomon – 1 Chronicles 29:22) as described in v.6.
This if followed by a re-statement that the LORD shows steadfast love to His servants who walk before Him with all their heart (v.14), and that Israel will not be without a man on the throne is only the LORD’s sons would pay close attention to their way (v.16). As revealed by 1 and 2 Kings, such “sons”, princes and kings have failed miserably and have led Israel into captivity, and only the Anointed, Elected and Chosen Son and Prince of the Father could truly walk before the Father and cling onto His bosom tightly (John 1:18). Almost as if it were a response to this, Solomon declares – “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth?“. The Hebrew seems to indicate a rhetorical question demanding a “No – God cannot dwell with man on earth surely!”, although Young’s Literal translation assists in rephrasing the sentence as “For is it true? — God dwelleth with man on the earth!“. The latter translation in fact, even if not entirely accurate, is closer to Solomon’s understanding of the gospel and the workings of the temple, as revealed in the remainder of chapter 6:
v.19-21: Opening: Solomon opens with pleading the LORD to have regard to the prayer of His servant (Solomon) and to Solomon’s plea, as well as the pleas of the Israelites (v.21) when they pray to the Temple (which is clearly a novel practice given the Temple is a new creation in itself!);
v.22-23: Sinning against neighbour: the man with the false oath shall be punished, and the righteous vindicated, as exposed before the altar;
v.24-25: Israel’s defeat due to its sins: turning once again to the LORD at the temple and His house, where He shall hear from heaven (note: not the house) and forgive the people’s sin;
v.26-27: No rain due to Israel’s sin: will lead to forgiveness if they pray toward the Temple and acknowledge the LORD’s name and turning from their sin;
v.28-31: Famine in the land due to pestilence / blight / mildrew / locust / caterpillar: whatever prayer / plea made by any man or by the Israelites, knowing their own afflications and sorrows, shall be granted the LORD’s protection;
v.32-33: Foreigners: should they go to worship the LORD at the Temple, the LORD may fulfill his prayers to expedite the conversation of neighbouring nations;
v.34-35: Battling against enemies: should Israelites go out to battle against their enemies, the LORD shall have their cause maintained by their prayer to the chosen city and Temple;
v.36-39: Sinning against the LORD: as an umbrella to all that above, if any man sins against the LORD, and the LORD is angry with such a person and gives him/her to the enemy as captive, v.37-39 – “yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, “We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly, if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name… maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you“.
The repeated refrain that the LORD hears from heaven His dwelling place is, on the one hand, Solomon’s understanding that the LORD could never see the Temple as His actual shelter; a fitting pretext to the entire chapter’s devotion to people praying towards the Temple for the LORD’s mercy. In this sense, Solomon is stating time and time again that the Temple is but a shadow to the LORD’s true dwelling place, which is heaven. Yet, at the same time, the LORD has chosen Jerusalem and David to be the respective city and prince where His Name is sealed – both being “mortal” city and man. In the various scenarios outlined above, it is the final few verses which hit the heart of Solomon’s message – that the LORD’s steadfast love means no man shall ever fear of being apostate due to their own sin (a fitting interpretation of Hebrews 6), except the unforgiveable sin of continual rejection of Christ, the Person witnessed by Moses’ law in the Ark of Covenant. Though heaven be the LORD’s dwelling place, His acts are clearly incarnate in His gracious dealings with men in spite of their sin, which could not be possibly dealt with save for the saving work symbolised in the Temple. Solomon does not even mention the need to go through the offerings detailed in Leviticus, but pleads with the LORD that a proper Christological understanding of the Temple is sufficient for them to see that the object of faith for Old Testament Christians is Christ the Person, not Ark / Altar / Lamb the shadow. It is only in this sense that the LORD’s “priests… be clothed with salvation… [and the] saints rejoice in [His] goodness” (c.f. language in Isaiah 61:11 – the garment of salvation as a gift from the LORD), undergirded by the LORD’s steadfast love for David as contingent upon him remaining face to face with His anointed one, predominantly Jesus Christ the Anointed One.
Solomon therefore clearly understood the gospel as we understand it today:
1. The Father shall dwell with us upon the completion of the work of the Son;
2. His true dwelling place was never in the shadow of old creation, such as the temple, but in his current heavenly dwelling;
3. No man could have his sins pardoned except by praying to the LORD through the Temple, symbolising the work of Christ on the cross;
4. God could not possibly forgive any such men without remembering first the steadfast love for David, and remaining face to face with the anointed one. Or in the better words of Matthew Henry:
“We may plead, as Solomon does here, with an eye to Christ:–“We deserve that God should turn away our face, that he should reject us and our prayers; but we come in the name of the Lord Jesus, thy anointed, thy Messiah (so the word is), thy Christ, so the LXX. Him thou hearest always, and wilt never turn away his face. We have no righteousness of our own to plead, but, Lord, remember the mercies of David thy servant.” Christ is God’s servant (Isa. xlii. 1), and is called David, Hos. iii. 5. “Lord, remember his mercies, and accept us on the account of them. Remember his tender concern for his Father’s honour and man’s salvation, and what he did and suffered from that principle. Remember the promises of the everlasting covenant, which free grace has made to us in Christ, and which are called the sure mercies of David,” Isa. lv. 3 and Acts xiii. 34. This must be all our desire and all our hope, all our prayer and all our plea; for it is all our salvation.”