1 Kings 6 – The Construction of the Temple
A. Basic dimensions and structure.
1. (1-6) Basic dimensions of the temple.
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord. Now the house which King Solomon built for the Lord, its length was sixty cubits, its width twenty, and its height thirty cubits. The vestibule in front of the sanctuary of the house was twenty cubits long across the width of the house, and the width of the vestible extended ten cubits from the front of the house. And he made for the house windows with beveled frames. Against the wall of the temple he built chambers all around, against the walls of the temple, all around the sanctuary and the inner sanctuary. Thus he made side chambers all around it. The lowest chamber was five cubits wide, the middle was six cubits wide, and the third was seven cubits wide; for he made narrow ledges around the outside of the temple, so that the support beams would not be fastened into the walls of the temple.
a. In the four hundred and eightieth year: This marking point shows just how long Israel lived in the Promised Land without a temple. The tabernacle served the nation well for more than 400 years. The prompting to build the temple was more at the direction and will of God than out of absolute necessity.
i. The date in 1 Kings 6:1 also gives a marking point for the Exodus. As many suppose, the reign of Solomon began in 971 b.c. and ended at 913 b.c. (the temple was begun in 967 b.c.). This means that the Exodus took place in 1447 b.c.
b. He began to build the house of the Lord: This was when the actual construction began. Solomon probably started to organize the work right away. There is some evidence that it took three years to prepare timber from Lebanon for use in building. If Solomon began the construction of the temple in the fourth year of his reign, he probably started organizing the construction in the very first year of his reign.
i. Yet the work was carefully organized and planned even before Solomon became king. 1 Chronicles 28:11-12 tells us, Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the vestibule, its houses, its treasuries, its upper chambers, its inner chambers, and the place of the mercy seat; and the plans for all that he had by the Spirit, of the courts of the house of the Lord, of all the chambers all around, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries for the dedicated things.
ii. The writer of 1 Kings never tells us exactly where the temple was built, but the writer of 2 Chronicles tells us that it was built on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), the same place where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac and Jesus would be crucified (on another part of the hill).
c. The house which King Solomon built for the Lord: This chapter describes the building of the temple and its associated areas. There are four main structures described.
· The temple proper (the house which King Solomon built), divided into two rooms (the holy place and the most holy place).
· The vestibule or entrance hall on the east side of the temple proper (the vestibule in front of the sanctuary). It was thirty feet (10 meters) wide and fifteen feet (5 meters) deep, and the same height as the temple proper.
· The three-storied side chambers (chambers all around) which surrounded the temple proper on the north, south, and west sides.
· A large courtyard surrounding the whole structure (the inner court mentioned in 1 Kings 6:36).
d. Its length was sixty cubits, its width twenty, and its height thirty cubits: Assuming that the ancient cubit was approximately 18 inches (perhaps one-half meter), this means that the temple proper was approximately 90 feet (30 meters) long, 30 feet (10 meters) wide, and 45 feet (15 meters) high. This was not especially large as ancient temples go, but the glory of Israel’s temple was not in its size.
i. Allowing for the outside storage rooms, the vestibule, and the estimate thickness of the walls, the total size of the structure was perhaps 75 cubits long (110 feet, 37 meters) and 50 cubits wide (75 feet, 25 meters).
ii. The dimensions of the temple also tell us that it was built on the same basic design as the tabernacle, but twice as large. This means that Solomon meant the temple to be a continuation of the tabernacle.
e. He built chambers all around: These seem to be side rooms adjacent to the temple, yet not structurally part of the temple. The New International Version translates 1 Kings 6:5: Against the walls of the main hall and inner sanctuary he built a structure around the building, in which there were side rooms.
2. (7-10) Details of the construction.
And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built. The doorway for the middle story was on the right side of the temple. They went up by stairs to the middle story, and from the middle to the third. So he built the temple and finished it, and he paneled the temple with beams and boards of cedar. And he built side chambers against the entire temple, each five cubits high; they were attached to the temple with cedar beams.
a. No hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built: The stones used to build the temple were all cut and prepared at another site. The stones were only assembled at the building site of the temple.
i. This speaks to the way God wants His work done. The temple had to be built with human labor. God did not and would not send a team of angels to build the temple. Yet Solomon did not want the sound of man’s work to dominate the site of the temple. He wanted to communicate, as much as possible, that the temple was of God and not of man.
ii. This speaks to the way God works in His people. Often the greatest work in the Kingdom of God happens quietly. Yet the building site of the temple was only quiet because there was a lot of noise and diligent work at the quarry.
iii. This speaks to God’s work in the church. “But why is this so particularly marked? It is not because the temple was a type of the kingdom of God; and the souls of men are to be prepared here for that place of blessedness? There, there is no preaching, exhortations, repentance, tears, cries, nor prayers; the stones must be all squared and fitted here for their place in their New Jerusalem.” (Clarke)
b. He paneled the temple with beams and boards of cedar: These were some of the finest building materials available. The impression is of a magnificent building.
c. He built side chambers against the entire temple: This describes the rooms adjacent to the temple, surrounding it on the north, west, and south sides. These side chambers were built in three stories.
B. God’s promise and Solomon’s building.
1. (11-13) God’s promise to Solomon.
Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying: “Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.”
a. If you walk in My statutes: This was a conditional promise to Solomon and his descendents. It depended on the obedience of Solomon and his descendents.
b. I will perform My word with you . . . And I will dwell among the children of Israel: God promised an obedient Solomon that he would reign and be blessed, fulfilling the promises God made to David about his reign (2 Samuel 7:5-16). He also promised that His special presence would remain among Israel as a nation.
i. We might say that there was nothing particularly new in this promise. These are essentially the same promises of the Old Covenant made to Israel at Sinai. But this was an important reminder and renewal of previous promises.
c. And I will dwell among the children of Israel: God was careful not to say that He would live in the temple the way pagans thought their gods lived in temples. He would dwell among the children of Israel. The temple was a special place for man to meet with God.
2. (14-38) The finished temple.
So Solomon built the temple and finished it. And he built the inside walls of the temple with cedar boards; from the floor of the temple to the ceiling he paneled the inside with wood; and he covered the floor of the temple with planks of cypress. Then he built the twenty-cubit room at the rear of the temple, from floor to ceiling, with cedar boards; he built it inside as the inner sanctuary, as the Most Holy Place. And in front of it the temple sanctuary was forty cubits long. The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with ornamental buds and open flowers. All was cedar; there was no stone to be seen. And he prepared the inner sanctuary inside the temple, to set the ark of the covenant of the Lord there. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high. He overlaid it with pure gold, and overlaid the altar of cedar. So Solomon overlaid the inside of the temple with pure gold. He stretched gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. The whole temple he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the temple; also he overlaid with gold the entire altar that was by the inner sanctuary. Inside the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high. One wing of the cherub was five cubits, and the other wing of the cherub five cubits: ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. And the other cherub was ten cubits; both cherubim were of the same size and shape. The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was the other cherub. Then he set the cherubim inside the inner room; and they stretched out the wings of the cherubim so that the wing of the one touched one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall. And their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. Also he overlaid the cherubim with gold. Then he carved all the walls of the temple all around, both the inner and outer sanctuaries, with carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. And the floor of the temple he overlaid with gold, both the inner and outer sanctuaries. For the entrance of the inner sanctuary he made doors of olive wood; the lintel and doorposts were one-fifth of the wall. The two doors were of olive wood; and he carved on them figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold; and he spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees. So for the door of the sanctuary he also made doorposts of olive wood, one-fourth of the wall. And the two doors were of cypress wood; two panels comprised one folding door, and two panels comprised the other folding door. Then he carved cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers on them, and overlaid them with gold applied evenly on the carved work. And he built the inner court with three rows of hewn stone and a row of cedar beams. In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, in the month of Ziv. And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its details and according to all its plans. So he was seven years in building it.
a. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high: Special attention was given to the Holy of Holies or Most Holy place. It was a 30-foot (10 meter) cube, completely overlaid with gold. It also had two large sculptures of cherubim (15-foot or 5 meters in height), which were overlaid with gold.
i. There were gold chains across the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. “The gold chains, stretched across the front of the inner sanctuary, served to strengthen the concept of the inaccessibility of this Most Holy Place.” (Patterson and Austel)
ii. Two cherubim of olive wood: These two large sculptures inside the Most Holy Place faced the entrance to this inner room, so as soon as the High Priest entered he saw these giant guardians of the presence of God facing him.
iii. And the floor of the temple he overlaid with gold: There was gold everywhere in the temple. The walls were covered with gold (1 Kings 6:20-22), the floor was covered with gold (1 Kings 6:30) and gold was hammered into the carvings on the doors (1 Kings 6:32).
b. He carved all the walls of the temple all around, both the inner and outer sanctuaries, with carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers: This was after the pattern of the tabernacle, which had woven designs of cherubim on the inner covering.
c. And he built the inner court: This inner court was the court of the priests where the altar and laver were set and sacrifice was conducted. Outside it was the great court, where the people came to pray. Outside it was the court of the women, and outside that was the court of the Gentiles.
i. It must always be remembered that under the Old Covenant, the temple was not for the people of Israel. It was only for the priests to meet with God on behalf of the people. The people gathered and worshipped in the outer courtyard.
d. So he was seven years in building it: When the temple was finished it was a spectacular building. It was easy for Israel to focus on the temple of God instead of the God of the temple. Yet without continued faithfulness to God, the temple’s glory quickly faded. This glorious temple was plundered just five years after the death of Solomon (1 Kings 14:25-27).
©2015 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission