1 Kings 8=Solomon Building and Dedicating the Temple
Bible Background: We’ve skipped over the reign of King David, who wanted to build a temple for God. (2 Samuel 7) is stopped by God-who intends to “build a house/dynasty for David!” (Another scripture suggests David will not build the temple because he has too much blood on his hands, 1 Chronicles 28.) Solomon, who prays for and receives wisdom, determines to build a house for God. He enlists the partnership of King Hiram of Tyre, who supplied much of the material and some of the artisans. The dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem is a powerful celebration that helps make God’s name known!
Digging Deeper: 1. The temple in Jerusalem was thought to be built on the site of Mt. Moriah, where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac. The site has ‘roots’ in scripture. That part of Jerusalem was also known as Mt. Zion. (And a number of modern churches borrowed that name!)
2. A little detail is important: Solomon is building a “house for the name of the LORD!” i.e. not a house for the LORD, because you cannot tie down Yahweh to one place (or keep God in a box!). While the temple is hugely and symbolically so important to the Jewish religion in Bible times, scripture also treats it with some ambivilence. The key is not having the building itself, but in the words of 1 Samuel 6:11-13 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.” It’s not about the building….it’s about the faithfulness to God!
3. Another interestingly little detail, when the Ark of the Covenant Box is moved into the holiest part of the temple, it’s found to contain just one thing: the tablets of stone on which God wrote the Ten Commandments for Moses! This too, would be a note that God’s Word and God’s commandments are the key ingredient to making all this religious ‘stuff’ into something genuine! Think of how for Lutherans (and most all Christians), the emphasis on the power and authority and accessibility of the written Word was a gift of the Reformation!
4. FYI, the temple in Jesus’ day was not the one Solomon built. (It was destroyed by the Babylonians when they looted and burned the city in 587 BCE and took the people into exile.) The temple that Jesus knew likely had it’s origins when some of the exiles returned to Jerusalem (around 516 BCE) and built a modest structure that was then totally renovated and/or expanded by Herod the Great and finished at the time Jesus was born. This “second temple” would be destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. In the Gospels, Jesus’ family goes to the temple (age 12). As a teacher/rabbi, he drives the merchants and moneychangers out of the temple, creating quite a stir. One charge against him at his trial, is that he said “I will destroy this temple and in 3 days raise it up.” (The Editor tells us “He was referring to his body!”) By the time the 4 gospels are written down, the temple has been leveled. And in Revelation 21, where we get a picture of the heavenly New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God-everything is bright, and shiny, and beautiful, and safe-but, there is no temple! Why? Because none is needed! People thought they needed a temple to have access to God, and to forgiveness. But with the risen Christ, we all have access to God and to forgiveness!