THE MAJESTY AND GLORY OF GOD ARE REFLECTED IN THE ORNATE AND PRECIOUS DESIGN OF THE TEMPLE STRUCTURES AND INTERNAL FURNISHINGS AND UTENSILS
Raymond Dillard: In light of the dominant role the temple plays in the Chronicler’s history the most striking feature of his account of the building of the temple is its brevity: forty-six verses in Kings (1 Kgs 6:1–38; 7:15–22) compared to seventeen in Chronicles. Much of the extensive detail regarding the architecture of the temple is omitted (6:4–19, 22, 26, 29–38; 7:15, 17b–20, 22), along with the description of Solomon’s palace (7:1–12). The Chronicler adds only a few details not found in the parallel text (3:1, 6, 8b–9, 14). At the very least the author is depending on the reader’s knowledge of the account in Kings, for without that information his description of the temple is relatively opaque.
Iain Duguid: David and Solomon’s preparations had reached their end; next, “Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.” The account of preparation subsequent to God’s first announcement (1 Chron. 17:3–15) has been extensive (14 chapters), but the actual details of the buildings and its furnishings are given briefly. The Chronicler’s account (2 Chron. 3:1–5:1) is only half the length of that in 1 Kings 6:1–38; 7:13–51—and this includes places where he expands on that content. He focuses on details that are pertinent to the second temple and his hearers’ context.
Geoffrey Kirkland: Consider how the Chronicler acts as a sort of TOUR GUIDE to lead us (in 2 Chronicles 3)!
– he starts with the PORCH (3-4)
o then the interior room – “the holy place” (v.5-7)
- then the Holiest of all, the Most Holy Place (v.8-13)
• then the VEIL of separation (v.14)
o then the PILLARS on the outside of symbolic praise (v.15-17)
Mark Boda: Chapters 3 and 4 were compiled as a continuous section, as indicated by the regular use of the verb wayya’as (“and he made/did”) in 3:8, 10, 14, 15, 16; 4:1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 18, 19. This becomes a “Leitmotif, lending the pericope a touch of uniformity” (Japhet 1993:563; cf. Williamson 1982:208). The section begins with a summary note (3:1-2), a structuring signal that matches others found throughout the Chronicler’s account of the Temple building (1:1; 2:1; 3:1-2; 5:1; 7:11; 8:1, 16). It then presents the building account in two parts: first, the construction of the building structures (3:3-17) and, second, the fashioning of the furnishings and utensils within those structures (4:1-22).
(3:1-2) PROLOGUE – BEGINNING OF TEMPLE CONSTRUCTION
A. (:1a) Project Start
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem”
B. (:1b) Project Strategic Location
1. Strategic via Theophany
“on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David,”
August Konkel: Two designations are brought together: the threshing floor of Araunah, where the plague was stopped, and Mount Moriah, where Abraham offered Isaac to God (Gen 22:2).
2. Strategic via Staging by David
“at the place that David had prepared,”
3. Strategic via Purchase from Ornan the Jebusite
“on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”
Frederick Mabie: Moreover, the location of Mount Moriah connects with God’s provision of a substitutionary sacrifice for Abraham (Ge 22), after which the area was called the “mountain of the LORD” (Ge 22:14). The location at the threshing floor of Ornan (“Araunah” in 2Sa 24:18) the Jebusite adds a further level of significance to the site of the Jerusalem temple. This location hearkens back to David and reminds the reader that the chosen place for the temple connects with both divine grace (following David’s sin) and a divine encounter (via the angel of Yahweh). All told, careful narrative attention connects the temple location to Abraham, Moses, and David.
C. (:2) Project Starting Date
“And he began to build on the second day in the second month
of the fourth year of his reign.”
David Guzik: This was probably in the year 967 B.C. Connecting this with 1 Kings 6:1, 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.
Frederick Mabie: The fact that Solomon did not begin the temple construction until his fourth year reflects the significant amount of preparation and planning that still needed to take place beyond that accomplished by David.
Matthew Henry: The time when it was begun; not till the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, 2 Chron. 3:2. Not that the first three years were trifled away, or spent in deliberating whether they should build the temple or no; but they were employed in the necessary preparations for it, wherein three years would be soon gone, considering how many hands were to be got together and set to work. Some conjecture that this was a sabbatical year, or year of release and rest to the land, when the people, being discharged from their husbandry, might more easily lend a hand to the beginning of this work; and then the year in which it was finished would fall out to be another sabbatical year, when they would likewise have leisure to attend the solemnity of the dedication of it.
I. (3:3-17) STRUCTURE OF THE TEMPLE
A. (:3-7) Foundations, Overlays and Adornments
1. (:3-4) Dimensions of Foundations and Porch
“Now these are the foundations which Solomon laid for building the house of God. The length in cubits, according to the old standard was sixty cubits, and the width twenty cubits. 4 And the porch which was in front of the house was as long as the width of the house, twenty cubits, and the height 120; and inside he overlaid it with pure gold.”
Frederick Mabie: The description of the temple is replete with notations of gold, both by type and amount of gold. Examples in the immediate context include “pure gold” (zāhāb ṭāhôr; v.4), “fine gold” (zāhāb ṭôb; v.5), gold from Parvaim (v.6), and, in the broader context of Chronicles, “pure gold” (zāhāb sāgûr; e.g., 2Ch 4:20, 22), “beaten gold” (zāhāb šāḥûṭ; e.g., 2Ch 9:15–16), and gold from Ophir (2Ch 8:18; cf. David’s words in 1Ch 29:1–5). While the exact significance of each term (or geographic location) used in conjunction is not clear, the intended meaning and emphasis are clear—the temple built for Yahweh utilized top-quality gold sourced from locations known for special gold, reflecting the preciousness of God and the devotion of Solomon.
J.A. Thompson: It is evident that Israel used two standards for the cubit, a short cubit (17.4 inches) and a long cubit (20.4 inches), both based on an Egyptian dual standard of six and seven palms respectively (cf. Ezek 40:5; 45:13). It is not clear what the Chronicler meant by “the old standard,” but excavations at the temple of Arad yielded evidence of these two standards. The temple of the tenth century had a north-south measurement of nine meters (twenty short cubits) for its main hall while the ninth-century temple had been lengthened to 10.5 meters (twenty long cubits). The latter measurement is exactly the same as that of the Jerusalem temple, that is, twenty cubits.
2. (:5) Overlay of Main Room
“And he overlaid the main room with cypress wood and overlaid it with fine gold, and ornamented it with palm trees and chains.”
Frederick Mabie: The palm tree was a common symbol of fertility, life, and agricultural bounty in the ancient Near East and symbolized God’s blessings on his people.
3. (:6-7) Additional Adornments and Overlays
“Further, he adorned the house with precious stones; and the gold was gold from Parvaim. 7 He also overlaid the house with gold– the beams, the thresholds, and its walls, and its doors; and he carved cherubim on the walls.”
August Konkel: The building was ornate: the beams, doorposts, walls, and doors were overlaid or inlaid with gold and precious stones, depending on the feature intended (Dillard 1987: 28). The carefully carved figures of cherubim, palm trees, and chain festoons (curved lattices as if suspended from two points) were probably enhanced by gold and stone gems. The reliefs were possibly covered or embellished with gold, distinguishing them on the flat surface of the surrounding walls. The quality of materials increased in proximity to the most sacred spaces.
J.A. Thompson: The various areas that were covered with gold are listed—ceiling beams, door frames, walls, and doors. Cherubim were carved on the walls (cf. 1 Kgs 6:29).
B. (:8-14) Holy of Holies
1. (:8-9) Construction of the Holy of Holies
“Now he made the room of the holy of holies: its length, across the width of the house, was twenty cubits, and its width was twenty cubits; and he overlaid it with fine gold, amounting to 600 talents. 9 And the weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold. He also overlaid the upper rooms with gold.”
Frederick Mabie: The weight of the gold nails or pegs (50 shekels) amounts to more than one pound each. If these are the same nails as the type mentioned at 1 Chronicles 22:3, then the nails were made of iron and coated with gold.
2. (:10-14) Cherubim and Veil in the Holy of Holies
a. (:10-13) Cherubim
“Then he made two sculptured cherubim in the room of the holy of holies and overlaid them with gold. 11 And the wingspan of the cherubim was twenty cubits; the wing of one, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house, and its other wing, of five cubits, touched the wing of the other cherub. 12 And the wing of the other cherub, of five cubits, touched the wall of the house; and its other wing of five cubits, was attached to the wing of the first cherub. 13 The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits, and they stood on their feet facing the main room.”
Frederick Mabie: The imagery of the expanse of the cherubim’s wingspan may reflect God’s comprehensive coverage (protection) over the ark, namely, his protective watching over his law delineating his covenantal relationship with Israel contained in the ark (cf. Ex 37:7–9; 1Ch 28:18; 2Ch 5:7–8). Moreover, the stationing of the cherubim facing the main temple hall suggests their fuller function as guardians of sacred space. Such a guardian role of cherubim is also reflected in Genesis 3:24, where these creatures guard the tree of life.
In the biblical material, cherubim are associated with the context and imagery of God’s glory and majesty (cf. Ps 99:1; Eze 10:18–22). The imagery of fearsome supernatural creatures (referred to as sphinxes, griffins, and composite creatures) protecting the realm of deity and royalty is a common feature of temples and palaces from the biblical world. Within the broader motifs of the temple interior, the cherub, the sacred tree, and the lights conjure up images of the garden of Eden and the heavenly firmament.
Iain Duguid: The description of their standing “on their feet, facing the nave” distinguishes them from the cherubim who formed the cover of the ark looking at each other and the cover (Ex. 25:17–22). Like the cherubim that guarded the “way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24) they protect the Most Holy Place, God’s throne. Other links between the Most Holy Place and Eden, places of God’s presence, can be seen in the gold (cf. Gen. 2:11–12) and the imagery of “palms” (2 Chron. 3:5) and, on the external pillars, “pomegranates,” a common symbol of fertility throughout the ancient Near East (v. 16; 4:13).
b. (:14) Veil
“And he made the veil of violet, purple, crimson and fine linen, and he worked cherubim on it.”
C. (:15-17) Construction of the Pillars
“He also made two pillars for the front of the house, thirty-five cubits high, and the capital on the top of each was five cubits. 16 And he made chains in the inner sanctuary, and placed them on the tops of the pillars; and he made one hundred pomegranates and placed them on the chains. 17 And he erected the pillars in front of the temple, one on the right and the other on the left, and named the one on the right Jachin and the one on the left Boaz.”
August Konkel: The two pillars naturally generate a great deal of interest, partly because they remain somewhat mysterious. They seem to be freestanding pillars in front of the porch, but what they represent is never explained. In a vision Zechariah sees chariots burst out from between two bronze mountains (Zech 6:1), which is the closest biblical reference that might be an analogy to the significance of the pillars. The prophet depicts a scene at the entrance to God’s divine council. The meaning of the pillars was probably not one simple analogy, but a way of representing the rule of the Creator over the earth. The cosmos can be described as resting on pillars (Job 26:11), and in the garden of Eden, life and knowledge of God were represented by trees (Gen 2–3). All of these concepts are related. The names of the pillars are equally ambiguous: Jakin (it is firm) might refer to the security of the divine promise; Boaz (with strength) might be testimony to the strength of God for his kingdom.
Raymond Dillard: Though there is no doubt that the pillars were a common architectural feature in ancient temples, little unanimity exists beyond this assertion. Difficulties attend their size, placement, names, and function.
Various scholars have described them as fire cressets, cosmic pillars, maṣṣebôth, Egyptian obelisks, mythological mountains between which the sun (-god) appeared (cf. Zech 6:1), trees of paradise, means of determining the equinox, gateposts, etc. As much as they have kindled the interest of the modern reader, the Bible itself does not clearly articulate their function. . .
On the basis of the evidence from most temples, the consensus among archeologists is that the pillars were freestanding; their function was symbolic and decorative rather than structural. . .
The names of the pillars have also produced a wide variety of opinion, some transparently less probable than others; they have been viewed
(1) as the names of donors or builders;
(2) as a reference to other gods;
(3) as the names of maṣṣebôth that stood on the site prior to the time of David;
(4) as predicates of deity: “He is the one who establishes; in him is strength”;
(5) together as a verbal sentence, “he establishes in strength”;
(6) as opening words of two longer inscriptions in some way associated with dynastic oracles;
(7) as ancestral names of King Solomon.
David Guzik: The house of God was a place where people experienced what the pillars were all about. At that house, people were established in their relationship with God. At that house, people were given strength from the LORD. From this building, it should go out to the whole community: “Come here and get established. Come here and receive the strength of God.”
Geoffrey Kirkland: Why the pillars in front of the Temple complex?
1. The PILLARS are Monuments of God’s Majesty!
2. Also, they served to *REMIND* each generation of Israelites of the greatness and power of the One True and Living God, that they had the privilege of worshipping and coming to Him!
II. (4:1-22) INTERIOR FURNISHINGS AND UTENSILS OF THE TEMPLE
A. (:1-6) Bronze Altar, Cast Metal Sea with Figures Like Oxen and Ten Basins
1. (:1) Bronze Altar
“Then he made a bronze altar, twenty cubits in length
and twenty cubits in width and ten cubits in height.”
Pulpit Commentary: It must be observed that the altar is the first item mentioned in the list of furniture that leads to the ark, which symbolized the presence of God. In New Testament terms, we could say that the way to the throne of God begins at the cross. Without the sacrifice of Christ there would be no possibility of fellowship with the Father.
2. (:2) Cast Metal Sea with Figures Like Oxen
a. (:2) Dimensions of Cast Metal Sea
“Also he made the cast metal sea, ten cubits from brim to brim,
circular in form, and its height was five cubits
and its circumference thirty cubits.”
b. (:3) Figures Like Oxen
“Now figures like oxen were under it and all around it,
ten cubits, entirely encircling the sea.
The oxen were in two rows, cast in one piece.”
c. (:4) Orientation of Cast Metal Sea
“It stood on twelve oxen, three facing the north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east; and the sea was set on top of them, and all their hindquarters turned inwards.”
Iain Dillard: The calm water in the large “sea” thus reminded worshipers of the Lord’s rule over all creation and history; the supporting “twelve oxen,” three facing each of the compass directions, provide an image of strength covering all the earth. They may also represent the twelve tribes of Israel, which in the wilderness encamped around the tabernacle (Num. 2:1–31).
d. (:5) Capacity of Cast Metal Sea
“And it was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like a lily blossom; it could hold 3,000 baths.”
3. (:6) Ten Basins
“He also made ten basins in which to wash, and he set five on the right side and five on the left, to rinse things for the burnt offering; but the sea was for the priests to wash in.”
J.A. Thompson: v. 6 — Reference is made here to the ten basins, five placed on the south side of the Sea and five on the north side. A distinction is made in the use to which these basins were put in contrast to that of the Sea. The basins were used for washing the utensils used for the burnt offerings, while the Sea was reserved for the priests. The parallel passage in Kings is longer and includes a section that deals with the portable stands for the basins (1 Kgs 7:27–37).
Raymond Dillard: The Chronicler assigns to the Sea and the basins a function in ritual cleansing of the priests and the sacrificial implements. This addition by the Chronicler gives these vessels the same function as that of the laver in the tabernacle (Exod 30:18–21); the inclusion of this information is one more example of the Chronicler’s efforts to parallel the building of the temple and the tabernacle. Most interpreters have viewed the Sea as symbolic of the primeval sea or chaos ocean over which Yahweh rules in triumph (Ps 29:10; 74:12–17; 89:9–10; 93:3–4; 98:7–9; 104:1–9; Isa 51:9–10; Hab 3:8–10); it is Yahweh who rules over the Sea, not the Babylonian Marduk or the Canaanite Baal whose victories are recorded in mythological literature. If the function of the Sea in the temple courtyard is primarily that of cosmological symbolism, then the Chronicler could be viewed as demythologizing the Sea of the pagan associations it may have evoked by giving it instead a utilitarian function (C-M, Rudolph, Albright, Michaeli, Coggins). There is, however, insufficient evidence to determine which was the original use intended for the Sea or to associate either view of it with a different time period or sociological group. Biblical imagery pertaining to water is multifaceted: it not only represents the threatening waters which must be subjected to God, but also water for cleansing and purification (Exod 30:18–21; Lev 15:5–11; Ezek 36:25; Zech 13:1; Ps 51:7, 10; Isa 1:16). In Ezekiel’s temple vision the brazen Sea has been replaced by a life-giving river (Ezek 47:1–12; cf. Rev 22:1–2). If the Sea was to be used by the priests for ablution, some stairs or other means of ascent must also have been provided, but are not mentioned. The twelve bulls forming the base were likely symbolic of the tribes of Israel; three tribes at each of the four compass points is reminiscent of the arrangement of camp in the wilderness (Num 2) and of Ezekiel’s vision of the city gates (Ezek 48:30–35). . .
While the tabernacle had a single lampstand, a single table for the consecrated bread, and a single laver, Solomon’s temple had ten of each. The description of these mobile basins is much more elaborate in 1 Kgs 7:27–40. For a discussion of the Sea and the basins and archeological parallels, see Busink, Der Tempel 1:326–52. The decoration on the panels of these wheeled stands (lions, bulls, cherubim) and their being likened to chariots (1 Kgs 7:32–33) evokes imagery of the divine chariot (Ezek 1:4–28) with its wheels, creatures, and the sound of rushing water; cf. 1 Chr 28:18.
B. (:7-8) Ten Golden Lampstands, Ten Tables and One Hundred Golden Bowls
1. (:7) Ten Golden Lampstands
“Then he made the ten golden lampstands
in the way prescribed for them,
and he set them in the temple, five on the right side and five on the left.”
2. (:8a) Ten Tables
“He also made ten tables and placed them in the temple,
five on the right side and five on the left.”
3. (:8b) One Hundred Golden Bowls
“And he made one hundred golden bowls.”
C. (:9) Courts and Doors
1. Construction of the Courts and Doors
“Then he made the court of the priests and the great court and doors for the court, and overlaid their doors with bronze.”
2. Placement of the Sea
“And he set the sea on the right side of the house toward the southeast.”
D. (:11-18) Summary of Hiram/Huram-Abi’s Contributions
“Huram also made the pails, the shovels, and the bowls. So Huram finished doing the work which he performed for King Solomon in the house of God: 12 the two pillars, the bowls and the two capitals on top of the pillars, and the two networks to cover the two bowls of the capitals which were on top of the pillars, 13 and the four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, two rows of pomegranates for each network to cover the two bowls of the capitals which were on the pillars. 14 He also made the stands and he made the basins on the stands, 15 and the one sea with the twelve oxen under it. 16 And the pails, the shovels, the forks, and all its utensils, Huram-abi made of polished bronze for King Solomon for the house of the LORD. 17 On the plain of the Jordan the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredah. 18 Thus Solomon made all these utensils in great quantities, for the weight of the bronze could not be found out.”
Andrew Hill: The summary of Huram-Abi’s achievements (4:11–16) completes the record of the skilled smiths sent by King Hiram of Tyre to oversee the metal work and engraving for the temple (2:13–14). The added detail concerning the location of bronze casting (east of the Jordan River, halfway between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, 4:17) puts the process of metal casting a considerable distance from the source of copper used in the bronze casting if it was mined at Timnah. The “golden altar” is equivalent to the altar of incense in the Mosaic tabernacle (4:19a; cf. Ex. 30:1–10).
E. (:19-22) Furnishing of the Temple Completed by Solomon
“Solomon also made all the things that were in the house of God: even the golden altar, the tables with the bread of the Presence on them, 20 the lampstands with their lamps of pure gold, to burn in front of the inner sanctuary in the way prescribed; 21 the flowers, the lamps, and the tongs of gold, of purest gold; 22 and the snuffers, the bowls, the spoons, and the firepans of pure gold; and the entrance of the house, its inner doors for the holy of holies, and the doors of the house, that is, of the nave, of gold.”
Frederick Mabie: The gold noted in conjunction with the altar utensils (vv.21–22) reflects their supreme importance in the sacrificial system. No expense was spared in even the smallest details of the construction and furnishing of the temple complex. The gold doors of the temple (v.22), like the veil, were both works of art and functional means of protecting holy space.
Martin Selman: 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.
(5:1) TRANSITION – COMPLETION OF TEMPLE CONSTRUCTION
A. Completion of the Temple
“Thus all the work that Solomon performed for the house of the LORD was finished.”
B. Consigning the Valuable Davidic Spoils into the Treasuries of the Temple
“And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, even the silver and the gold and all the utensils, and put them in the treasuries of the house of God.”
J.A. Thompson: This verse marks the transition between the story of the construction and that of the dedication of the temple. It follows 1 Kgs 7:51. The last action mentioned in this section is Solomon’s moving to the treasuries of God’s temple (1 Chr 18:8, 10–11; 22:3–4, 14, 16; 26:26; 29:2–9) the things David, his father, had dedicated. The spoils taken from Egypt went into the building of the tabernacle. The spoils taken from Israel’s enemies built the temple. The treasuries of God’s temple are not described in the Chronicler’s account of the temple construction (cf. 1 Kgs 6:5–10). The verb “was finished” (wattišalam) may be a play on Solomon’s name (šêlōmōh), for it uses the same consonants. Solomon, the chosen temple builder, brings his task to fulfillment.
Raymond Dillard: The things dedicated by David. See 1 Chr 18:1–13; 26:25–27; 29:1–5. Just as the spoil taken from Egypt had gone into the building of the tabernacle, so also the spoil of Israel’s enemies built the temple. The prophets often portray the wealth of the nations at the disposal of Israel (Isa 60:10–14; Mic 4:13; Zech 14:14). David’s generosity stimulated the giving of the people (1 Chr 29:6–9); their giving is another parallel chosen by the Chronicler with events at the building of the tabernacle (Exod 35:4—36:7). The dedicated things were stored in the treasuries of the temple (1 Chr 26:26; 28:12), though these rooms are not described in the Chronicler’s account of the construction (1 Kgs 6:5–10).