2 Chronicles 4 – Furnishings for the Temple and Its Court
A. The furnishings of the temple.
1. (1) The bronze altar.
Moreover he made a bronze altar: twenty cubits was its length, twenty cubits its width, and ten cubits its height.
a. He made a bronze altar: The idea behind the Hebrew word for altar is essentially, “killing-place.” This was the place of sacrifice, the center for worship and service for the priests and the people.
i. “Just as in the tabernacle, the altar was the first main object to be met as one entered the sanctuary court. It demonstrates that God may be approached only through sacrifices.” (Payne)
ii. We also have an altar: We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat (Hebrews 13:10). Our altar – our “killing-place” – is the cross, where Jesus died for our sins and we follow by dying to self and living for Jesus.
b. Twenty cubits: Essentially, this altar was large (about 30 feet or 10 meters square) and about twice as large as the altar originally built for the tabernacle (Exodus 27:1-2).
c. Ten cubits its height: The altar was raised significantly. The altar was set up high, “That all the people might see the burnt-offerings, and be reminded of their sins and of their Saviour; for the ceremonial law was their gospel.” (Trapp)
2. (2-6) The washing basins for the temple.
Then he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was completely round. Its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. And under it was the likeness of oxen encircling it all around, ten to a cubit, all the way around the Sea. The oxen were cast in two rows, when it was cast. It stood on twelve oxen: three looking toward the north, three looking toward the west, three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east; the Sea was set upon them, and all their back parts pointed inward. It was a handbreadth thick; and its brim was shaped like the brim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It contained three thousand baths. He also made ten lavers, and put five on the right side and five on the left, to wash in them; such things as they offered for the burnt offering they would wash in them, but the Sea was for the priests to wash in.
a. Then he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other: The huge laver was more than 15 feet (5 meters) across, and was used for the ceremonial washings connected with the priests themselves.
i. “Priests who did not wash to make themselves clean would die (Exodus 30:20).” (Selman)
ii. Wiseman explains in his commentary on 1 Kings: “It was used by priests for cleansing their hands and feet and perhaps also to supply water to the standing basins for the rinsing of offerings (2 Chronicles 4:10).” Poole believes that perhaps water came out of the bulls that formed the foundation of the Sea.
b. It stood on twelve oxen: This large pool of water was set upon sculptured oxen. “Prefiguring, say some, the twelve apostles, who carried the water of life all the world over.” (Trapp)
i. It contained three thousand baths: “In 1 Kings 7:26, it is said to hold only two thousand baths. Since this book was written after the Babylonian captivity, it is very possible that reference is here made to the Babylonian bath, which might have been less than the Jewish.” (Clarke)
c. He also made ten lavers: These additional basins were used for washing and cleaning the animal parts in the rituals of sacrifice.
3. (7-8) The lampstands, tables, and bowls.
And he made ten lampstands of gold according to their design, and set them in the temple, five on the right side and five on the left. He also made ten tables, and placed them in the temple, five on the right side and five on the left. And he made one hundred bowls of gold.
a. And he made ten lampstands…. He also made ten tables: The work of the temple required lampstands for light and tables to hold the showbread, the bread that represented the continual fellowship of Israel with God. Notably, the old tabernacle had one lampstand and one table. The temple fittingly displayed a greater light and a greater dynamic of fellowship.
b. And he made one hundred bowls of gold: “The ‘sprinkling bowls’ were not particularly associated with the tables but seem rather to have been used for collecting the blood of sacrifices, which was then sprinkled about the altar in the temple services of atonement.” (Payne)
4. (9-10) The court of the temple.
Furthermore he made the court of the priests, and the great court and doors for the court; and he overlaid these doors with bronze. He set the Sea on the right side, toward the southeast.
a. He made the court of the priests: This was also known as the inner court, the court of the temple open only to the priests.
b. And the great court: This was the outer court, the place in the temple precincts open to the assembly of Israel as a whole.
i. “Yet this very division into two courts (2 Kings 23:12) gave concrete expression to the fact that under the older testament there had not yet been achieved that universal priesthood of the believers that would come about through Jesus Christ. In him all the people of God have direct access to the Father.” (Payne)
B. The work of Huram from Tyre.
1. (11-17) Huram’s furnishings for the temple.
Then Huram made the pots and the shovels and the bowls. So Huram finished doing the work that he was to do for King Solomon for the house of God: the two pillars and the bowl-shaped capitals that were on top of the two pillars; the two networks covering the two bowl-shaped capitals which were on top of the pillars; four hundred pomegranates for the two networks (two rows of pomegranates for each network, to cover the two bowl-shaped capitals that were on the pillars); he also made carts and the lavers on the carts; one Sea and twelve oxen under it; also the pots, the shovels, the forks; and all their articles Huram his master craftsman made of burnished bronze for King Solomon for the house of the LORD. In the plain of Jordan the king had them cast in clay molds, between Succoth and Zeredah.
a. Then Huram made: Huram was half Israeli and half Gentile, and he was the best craftsman around. Solomon hired him to do all his work – that is, the fine artistic work of the temple.
b. The pots and the shovels and the bowls: These articles were of special note for the Chronicler, because these were some of the only articles that were recovered and used from the first temple period into the days of the Chronicler.
i. “The emphasis on the temple vessels, as well as the association between Tent and temple, underlines the continuity represented by the temple. The return of the temple vessels to the second temple was one of the chief signs that post-exilic Israel remained a worshipping community of covenant people (cf. Ezra 1:7-11; 6:5; 8:24-34).” (Selman)
2. (18-22) Summary of the furnishings for the temple.
And Solomon had all these articles made in such great abundance that the weight of the bronze was not determined. Thus Solomon had all the furnishings made for the house of God: the altar of gold and the tables on which was the showbread; the lampstands with their lamps of pure gold, to burn in the prescribed manner in front of the inner sanctuary, with the flowers and the lamps and the wick-trimmers of gold, of purest gold; the trimmers, the bowls, the ladles, and the censers of pure gold. As for the entry of the sanctuary, its inner doors to the Most Holy Place, and the doors of the main hall of the temple, were gold.
a. Such great abundance that the weight of the bronze was not determined: “The weight could not be found out. This was as it should be. There was no attempt to keep an accurate account of what was given to the service of God. Even Solomon’s left hand did not know what his right hand did. There is a tendency in all of us to keep a strict account of what we give to God…but the loftiest form of devotion overleaps such calculation.” (Meyer)
b. With the flowers and the lamps: “The symbolism of flora and fauna in the temple may either indicate God’s sovereignty over the created order or be another allusion to the harmony of all created things in God’s presence as in the Garden of Eden.” (Selman)