1 Kings 8 - The Dedication of the Temple

 

A. The Ark of the Covenant is brought to the temple.

 

1. (1-2) All of Israel assembles at Jerusalem.

 

Now Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the City of David, which is Zion. Therefore all the men of Israel assembled with King Solomon at the feast in the month of Ethanim, which is the seventh month.

 

a. Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel: Solomon intended this to be a spectacular "opening ceremony" for the temple. It was probably on the scale of the large productions in our modern Olympic opening ceremonies.

 

b. That they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord: The temple wasn't "open" until the ark of the covenant was set in the most holy place. The ark was the most important item in the temple.

 

c. Which is the seventh month: The temple was finished in the eighth month (1 Kings 6:38), but Solomon chose the seventh month for the dedication, eleven months later, "which time he chose with common respect to his people's convenience, because now they had gathered in all their fruits, and now they were come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of tabernacles." (Poole)

 

i. There may have also been another reason. "It has already been observed that Solomon deferred the dedication of the temple to the following year after it was finished, because that year, according to Archbishop Usher, was a jubilee." (Clarke)

 

2. (3-9) The ark of the covenant is set in the Holy of Holies.

 

So all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. Then they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tabernacle of meeting, and all the holy furnishings that were in the tabernacle. The priests and the Levites brought them up. Also King Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel who were assembled with him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen that could not be counted or numbered for multitude. Then the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the Most Holy Place, under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. The poles extended so that the ends of the poles could be seen from the holy place, in front of the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.

 

a. The priests took up the ark: Solomon was careful to obey what God commanded about transporting the ark of the covenant, that it was only to be carried by priests. He will not repeat the error of his father David in 2 Samuel 6:1-8.

 

b. And all the holy furnishings that were in the tabernacle: The ark of the covenant was the most important item in the temple, but not the only item. They also brought the lampstand, the table of showbread, and the altar of incense from the tabernacle into the temple.

 

i. "It is generally agreed that there were now two tabernacles, one at Gibeon, and the other in the city of David, which one David had constructed as a temporary residence for the ark." (Clarke)

 

c. Sacrificing sheep and oxen that could not be counted or numbered for multitude: Solomon went "over-the-top" in his effort to honor and praise God on this great day.

 

d. Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb: At an earlier point in Israel's history there were three items in the ark of the covenant. Earlier, inside the ark were the golden pot that had the manna (Exodus 16:33), Aaron's rod that budded (Numbers 17:6-11), and the tablets of the covenant (Exodus 25:16). We don't know what happened to the golden pot of manna and Aaron's rod, but they were not in the ark when Solomon set it in the most holy place.

 

e. When the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt: The reminder of the deliverance from Egypt is significant, because there is a sense in which this - some 500 years after the Exodus - is the culmination of the deliverance from Egypt. Out of Egypt and into the wilderness Israel, out of necessity, lived in tents - and the dwelling of God was a tent. Now since Solomon built the temple, the dwelling of God among Israel was a building, a place of permanence and security.

 

3. (10-13) The glory of God fills the temple.

 

And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon spoke:

 

"The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud.

I have surely built You an exalted house,

And a place for You to dwell in forever."

 

a. The cloud filled the house of the Lord: This was the cloud of glory, seen often in the Old and New Testaments, sometimes called the cloud of Shekinah glory. It is hard to define the glory of God; we could call it the radiant outshining of His character and presence. Here it is manifested in a cloud.

 

·        This is the cloud that stood by Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22)

·        This is the cloud of glory that God spoke to Israel from (Exodus 16:10)

·        This is the cloud from which God met with Moses and others (Exodus 19:9, 24:15-18, Numbers 11:25, 12:5, 16:42)

·        This is the cloud that stood by the door of the Tabernacle (Exodus 33:9-10)

·        This is the cloud from which God appeared to the High Priest in the Holy Place inside the veil (Leviticus 16:2)

·        This is the cloud of Ezekiel's vision, filling the temple of God with the brightness of His glory (Ezekiel 10:4)

·        This is the cloud of glory that overshadowed Mary when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35)

·        This is the cloud present at the transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:34-35)

·        This is the cloud of glory that received Jesus into heaven at His ascension (Acts 1:9)

·        This is the cloud that will display the glory of Jesus Christ when He returns in triumph to this earth (Luke 21:27, Revelation 1:7)

 

i. "There is a parallel to this event in Acts 2:1-4 in which God marks the inception of the church as the temple of the Holy Spirit by making his presence known through the sound of a mighty rushing win and by filling those present with the Holy Spirit." (Patterson and Austel)

 

b. So that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud: The extreme presence of the glory of God made normal service impossible. The sense of the presence of God was so intense that the priests felt it was impossible to continue in the building.

 

i. We know that God is good and that God is love; why should an intense presence of goodness and love make the priests feel they could not continue? Because God is not only goodness and love, He is also holy - and the holiness of God made the priests feel that they could no longer stand in His presence.

 

ii. The intense sense of the presence of our holy God is not a "warm and fuzzy" feeling. Men like Peter (Luke 5:8), Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5), and John (Revelation 1:17) felt stricken in the presence of God. This was not because God forced an uncomfortable feeling upon them, but because they simply could not be comfortable sensing the difference between their sinfulness and the holiness of God.

 

iii. We can also think of the priests as those who ministered unto God under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant - the covenant of grace and truth (John 1:17) - offers us a better access to God.

 

iv. This glory remained at the temple until Israel utterly rejected God in the days of the divided monarchy. The prophet Ezekiel saw the glory depart the temple (Ezekiel 10:18).

 

c. I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever: Solomon rightly sensed that the presence of the cloud meant that God dwelt in the temple in a special way. As long as this did not slip into a superstitious misunderstanding, it was good to recognize a special place to come and meet with God.

 

i. "Language experts say the poem is incomplete and fragmented, and that it apparently had another opening line in its original form." (Dilday)

 

4. (14-21) Solomon's speech at the dedication of the temple.

 

Then the king turned around and blessed the whole assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel was standing. And he said: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David, and with His hand has fulfilled it, saying, 'Since the day that I brought My people Israel out of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there; but I chose David to be over My people Israel.' Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David, 'Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless you shall not build the temple, but your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My name.' So the Lord has fulfilled His word which He spoke; and I have filled the position of my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised; and I have built a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel. And there I have made a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord which He made with our fathers, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt."

 

a. Who spoke with His mouth to my father David, and with His hand has fulfilled it: Solomon recognized that the temple was the fulfillment of God's plan, not David's or Solomon's. David and Solomon were human instruments, but the work was God's.

 

b. Out of Egypt . . . out of the land of Egypt: Solomon presses the remembrance of the Exodus. Though it happened 500 years before, it was just as important and real for Israel as the day it happened.

 

B. Solomon's prayer.

 

1. (22-23) Solomon recognizes the nature and character of God.

 

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; and he said: "Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.

 

a. Stood before the altar of the Lord: Solomon did not dedicate the temple from within the temple. It would be inappropriate for him to do so, because he was a king and not a priest. The holy place and most holy place were only for chosen descendants of the High Priest.

 

b. And spread out his hands toward heaven: This was the most common posture of prayer in the Old Testament. Many modern people close their eyes, bow their head, and fold their hands as they pray, but the Old Testament tradition was to spread out the hands toward heaven in a gesture of surrender, openness, and ready reception.

 

i. "It is worthy of remark concerning this prayer that it is as full and comprehensive as if it were meant to be the summary of all future prayers offered in the temple." (Spurgeon)

 

ii. "One is struck, moreover, with the fact that the language is far from new, and is full of quotations from the Pentateuch, some of which are almost word for word, while the sense of the whole may be found in those memorable passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy." (Spurgeon)

 

c. There is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You: Solomon recognized that God was completely unique. The pretended gods of the nations could not compare to Him in any way.

 

2. (24-26) Solomon recognizes God as the maker and keeper of promises.

 

"You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day. Therefore, Lord God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, 'You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk before Me as you have walked before Me.' And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father."

 

a. You have kept what You promised: Solomon first thanked and praised God for His past fulfillment of promises.

 

b. Now keep what You promised Your servant David: Solomon called upon God to keep the promises that He made. This is the great secret to power in prayer - to take God's promises to heart in faith, and then boldly and reverently call upon Him to fulfill the promises.

 

i. "God sent the promise on purpose to be used. If I see a Bank of England note, it is a promise for a certain amount of money, and I take it and use it. But oh I my friend, do try and use God's promises; nothing pleases God better than to see his promises put in circulation; he loves to see his children bring them up to him, and say, 'Lord, do as thou hast said.' And let me tell you that it glorifies God to use his promises." (Spurgeon)

 

ii. This kind of prayer lays hold of God's promise. Just because God promises doesn't mean that we possess. Through believing prayer like this, God promises and we appropriate. If we don't appropriate in faith, God's promise is left unclaimed.

 

3. (27-30) Solomon asks God to dwell in this place and honor those who seek Him here.

 

"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, 'My name shall be there,' that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.

 

a. How much less this temple which I have built! We are glad that Solomon said this. From his statement in 1 Kings 8:12-13 we might have thought that he drifted towards a superstitious idea that God actually lived in the temple to the exclusion of other places. It was important to recognize that though God had a special presence in the temple, He was far too great to be restricted to the temple.

 

b. May You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place: Solomon asked God to incline His ear towards the king and the people when they prayed from the temple. For this reason, many observant Jews still pray facing the direction of the site of the temple in Jerusalem.

 

c. When You hear, forgive: Solomon knew that the most important thing Israel needed was forgiveness. This was the greatest answer to prayer Israel could expect from God.

 

4. (31-32) Hear when Your people take an oath at the temple.

 

"When anyone sins against his neighbor, and is forced to take an oath, and comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this temple, then hear in heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked, bringing his way on his head, and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.

 

a. And comes and takes an oath before Your altar in this temple: The temple grounds were used as a place to verify and authorize oaths. When a dispute came down to one word against another, Solomon asked that the temple would be a place to properly swear by.

 

b. Hear in heaven, and act, and judge Your servants: Solomon asked the God who can see what man can't - who knows the hidden heart of man - and to enforce from heaven the oaths made at the temple.

 

i. The old Puritan commentator John Trapp could not resist mentioning a fulfillment of this principle  in his own day: "Anne Averies, who, forswearing herself, a.d. 1575, February 11, at a shop of Wood Street in London, praying God she might sink where she stood if she had not paid for the wares she took, fell down presently speechless, and with horrible stink died."

 

5. (33-34) Hear when Your people are defeated.

 

"When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and when they turn back to You and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication to You in this temple, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to their fathers.

 

a. When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy: Many times in their history, Israel suffered defeat and could only cry out to God. It was even worse when the defeat was because they had sinned against the Lord Himself.

 

b. When they turn back to You and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication to You in the temple, then hear in heaven: Solomon asked God to hear the prayers of a defeated, yet humble and penitent Israel. God answered this prayer of Solomon, and He forgives and restores His defeated people when they come in humble repentance.

 

6. (35-40) Hear in times of plague and famine.

 

"When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance. When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men), that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers.

 

a. When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain: Drought was a constant threat for the agriculturally based economy of Israel. If there was no rain, there was no food.

 

b. When they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven: Solomon doesn't take it for granted that God would forgive and hear His repentant people. God's good response to our repentance comes from His grace, not from justice.

 

c. When each one knows the plague of his own heart: Solomon recognized that some plagues are easily seen, but other plagues come from our own heart. Many are cursed by a plague that no one else can see, but lives in their own heart. Solomon asks God to answer such a plague-stricken man when he humbly pleads at the temple.

 

i. A man did not have to be sinless or righteous to have his prayer answered at the temple. He could be a guilty man, stricken by the plague of his own heart - and still find a gracious God when He came in humble repentance.

 

ii. "A great many men think they know the plague of other people’s hearts, and there is a great deal of talk in the world about this family, and that person, and the other. I pray you let the scandals of the hour alone, and think of your own evils." (Spurgeon)

 

7. (41-43) Hear when a foreigner prays.

 

"Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for Your name's sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this temple, hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this temple which I have built is called by Your name.

 

a. Moreover, concerning a foreigner: The temple was in Israel but it was always intended to be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7). God wanted the court of the Gentiles to be a place where the nations could come and pray.

 

i. The violation of this principle made Jesus angry. When He came to the temple and found the outer courts - the only place where the Gentile nations could come a pray - more like a swap meet than a house of prayer, He drove out the moneychangers and the merchants (Matthew 21:13).

 

b. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You: Solomon asked God to hear the prayer of the foreigner out of a missionary impulse. He knew that when God mercifully answered the prayers of foreigners, it drew those from other nations to the God of all nations.

 

8. (44-53) Hear when Israel goes out to battle and prays from captivity.

 

"When Your people go out to battle against their enemy, wherever You send them, and when they pray to the Lord toward the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name, then hear in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near; yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of those who took them captive, saying, 'We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness'; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You, and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You; and grant them compassion before those who took them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out of Egypt, out of the iron furnace), that Your eyes may be open to the supplication of Your servant and the supplication of Your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to You. For You separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be Your inheritance, as You spoke by Your servant Moses, when You brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD."

 

a. When Your people go out to battle against their enemy, wherever You send them: Solomon prayed with the idea that God should answer the prayers for victory made in foreign lands towards the temple, but only when they battle as God sent them. This was not a blanket request for blessing on every military adventure.

 

b. When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin): This is a succinct Old Testament statement of the principle most clearly stated in Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 

c. When they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive: Solomon also asked God to hear Israel's prayer from captivity in a foreign land. This recognized that the God of the Temple could answer prayers made away from the temple.

 

C. Solomon blesses the people.

 

1. (54-61) The blessing: may God answer my prayer, that we'll be blessed

 

And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the Lord, that he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven. Then he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying: "Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses. May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, which He commanded our fathers. And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day may require, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. Let your heart therefore be loyal to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at this day."

 

a. He arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven: 1 Kings 8:22 tells us that Solomon began this prayer standing, but some time before he finished, he fell to his knees in reverence to God.

 

i. Ezra prayed on his knees (Ezra 9:5), the Psalmist called us to kneel (Psalm 95:6), Daniel prayed on his knees (Daniel 6:10), people came to Jesus kneeling (Matthew 17:14, Matthew 20:20, Mark 1:40), Stephen prayed on his knees (Acts 7:60), Peter prayed on his knees (Acts 9:40), Paul prayed on his knees (Acts 20:36, Ephesians 3:14), and other early Christians prayed on their knees (Acts 21:5). Most importantly, Jesus prayed on His knees (Luke 22:41). The Bible has enough prayer not on the knees to show us that it isn't required, but it also has enough prayer on the knees to show us that it is good.

 

b. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses: Since Solomon prayed often appealing to God's promises, it makes sense that he praised God for the past fulfillment of His promises. Knowing this gave Solomon confidence in prayer.

 

c. May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers: God promised to be with Israel, but Solomon knew it was important to ask God to fulfill His promise. He comes pleading the promises of God.

 

d. That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God: Solomon again shows the often-neglected missionary impulse God wanted in Israel. Blessing to Israel wasn't meant to end with Israel; God wanted to bless the world through Israel.

 

2. (62-66) The feast of dedication for the temple.

 

Then the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifices before the Lord. And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to the Lord, twenty-two thousand bulls and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord. On the same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was in front of the house of the Lord; for there he offered burnt offerings, grain offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar that was before the Lord was too small to receive the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings. At that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days and seven more days; fourteen days. On the eighth day he sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the good that the Lord had done for His servant David, and for Israel His people.

 

a. He offered to the Lord, twenty-two thousand bulls and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep: This is a staggering - almost grotesque - amount of sacrifice. Each animal was ritually sacrificed and a portion was dedicated to the Lord, and a portion given to the priests and the people. It was enough to feed a vast multitude for two weeks.

 

i. It was such a great amount of sacrifice that they specially consecrated the area in front of the temple to receive sacrifices, because the bronze altar that was before the Lord was too small to receive the burnt offerings.

 

b. At that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him: From the time of year and the length of this feast, we understand that this was the Feast of Tabernacles, extended beyond its normal seven days on this special occasion.

 

i. "The Feast of Booths was in itself a grand occasion for rejoicing and for an enhanced spirit of community among all Israelites. The dedication of the temple made this occasion all the more joyful and memorable, and the time of the celebration was suitably extended." (Patterson and Austel)

 

c. For all the good that the Lord had done for His servant David, and for Israel His people: This account of the dedication of the temple ends where the story of the temple began - with David, not Solomon. The writer remembers that it was David's heart and vision that started the work of the temple (2 Samuel 7:1-3 and following).

 

i. "How happy must these people have been, and how prosperous, had their king continued to walk uprightly before God! But alas! the king fell, and the nation followed his example." (Clarke)

 

© 2004 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission