2 Chronicles 6 – Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication
A. Solomon blesses God.
1. (1-2) Acknowledgement of God’s presence in the cloud.
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 LORD said He would dwell in the dark cloud: The cloud of God’s glory has a long association with His presence.
b. 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. “Though only Jesus is God incarnate, the temple was a clear sign that God in all his being was committed to living among his people.” (Selman)
2. (3-9) Solomon blesses the people and blesses God.
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 has fulfilled with His hands what He spoke with His mouth to my father David, saying, ‘Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel. Yet I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there; and I have chosen 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 in 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.’”
a. Who has fulfilled with His hands what He spoke with His mouth to my father David: 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.
i. “The mention of God’s hands (lit. ‘fulfilled with his hands’) really means that God’s actions have confirmed his words – it is as if God’s unseen hands were active in all the human hands who contributed to the construction work (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:16).” (Selman)
b. 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.
c. Nevertheless you shall not build the temple: Though Solomon built the temple and not David, we are reminded of the extensive preparations David made for the temple. David prepared for the temple in every way he could short of actually building it, and he was happy for the credit and honor for building it to go to his son Solomon.
i. “It confirms that David’s disqualification was not due to sin, but because the concept of God’s rest must be regarded as the unique and final stage in building the temple.” (Selman)
3. (10-11) Solomon presents the finished temple to God.
“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 the temple for the name of the LORD God of Israel. And there I have put the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD which He made with the children of Israel.”
a. I have filled the position of my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised: Solomon recognized that his succession of David on the throne of Israel was a significant thing. He was the first king to follow his father as a hereditary monarch.
b. There I have put the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD: The chief glory of the temple was that it was the resting place for the ark of the covenant, a representation of God’s covenantal presence with His people.
B. Solomon’s prayer.
1. (12-14) Humility before, and praise to, God.
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands (for Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court; and he stood on it, knelt down on his knees before 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 or on earth 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: This was the most common posture of prayer in the Old Testament. Many modern people close their eyes, bow their heads, 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 or on earth like You: Solomon recognized that God was completely unique. The pretended gods of the nations could not compare to Him in any way.
2. (15-17) 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 in My law as you have walked before Me.’ And now, O LORD God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David.”
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.… let Your word come true: 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 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 does not 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. (18-21) Solomon asks God to dwell in this place and honor those who seek Him here.
“But will God indeed dwell with men 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: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple day and night, toward the place where You said You would put Your name, that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear from 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 prior statements, such as his statement in 2 Chronicles 6:1-2, we might have thought that Solomon 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 supplications 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. (22-23) Hear when Your people take an oath at the temple.
“If 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 from heaven, and act, and judge Your servants, bringing retribution on the wicked by bringing his way on his own 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 from 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 – 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. (24-25) Hear when Your people are defeated.
“Or if Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and return and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to them and their fathers.”
a. If 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. Return and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this temple, then hear from heaven: Solomon asked God to hear the prayers of a defeated, yet humble and penitent Israel. God answered this prayer of Solomon, and He forgave and restored His defeated people when they came in humble repentance.
6. (26-31) 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 enemies besiege 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 his own burden and his own grief, and spreads out his hands to this temple: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men), that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as 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.
i. “It is not therefore to be wondered at that, when Solomon dedicated to the Lord the temple which he had built, his great petition was that God would hear every prayer that should be uttered in that place or toward that place. He wished the temple always to be to Israel the token that God’s memorial is that he hears prayer.” (Spurgeon)
7. (32-33) Hear when a foreigner prays.
“Moreover, concerning a foreigner, who is not of Your people Israel, but has come from a far country for the sake of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray in this temple; then hear from 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 and pray – more like a swap meet than a house of prayer, He drove out the moneychangers and the merchants (Matthew 21:13).
b. Hear from 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.
i. “What is especially notable is that foreigners could know and fear God ‘like your people Israel.’ This hope of equality in worship was rarely expressed in the Old Testament (e.g. Genesis 12:3; Isaiah 19:24-25; Zechariah 8:20-22), and even Jesus’ closest disciples found its fulfillment hard to take (Acts 10:1-11:18).” (Selman)
8. (34-39) Hear when Israel goes out to battle and prays from captivity.
“When Your people go out to battle against their enemies, wherever You send them, and when they pray to You toward this city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name, then hear from 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 a land 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 their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, and have committed wickedness’; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been carried captive, and pray toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and toward the temple which I have built for Your name: then hear from heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.”
a. When Your people go out to battle against their enemies, 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.
i. “The sense that sin is all-pervading dominates, epitomised in one of the clearest biblical statements about sin’s universality (there is no one who does not sin, 2 Chronicles 6:36). No greater indication of the need for a place of atonement and forgiveness could be given.” (Selman)
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.
9. (40-42) Conclusion to the prayer.
“Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place.
Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place,
You and the ark of Your strength.
Let Your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation,
And let Your saints rejoice in goodness.
O LORD God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed;
Remember the mercies of Your servant David.”
a. Arise, O LORD God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength: This conclusion of prayer has Numbers 10:35-36 in mind, when Israel moved the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle, and the whole camp of Israel from place to place through the wilderness during the exodus. Solomon used the phrasing of that passage to emphasize that the ark of the covenant and the symbol of God’s presence would wander no more and had finally come to its final resting place.
b. Do not turn away the face of Your Anointed: Solomon probably meant this in reference to himself because he was the anointed king of Israel. Nevertheless, it also reminds us of the principle in prayer of praying in the name of Jesus, the ultimate Anointed One.
i. “In his prayer ‘do not reject your anointed one,’ the king now meant himself, though in subsequent usage it would express Israel’s hope in the coming Messiah.” (Payne)