SOLOMON’S TEMPLE DEDICATION PRAYER HIGHLIGHTS THE EFFICACY OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER BASED ON GOD’S RESPONSIVENESS AND ANTICIPATES THE PERPETUATION OF THE DAVIDIC DYNASTY IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOD’S COVENANT COMMITMENT
August Konkel: Solomon takes his place before the great altar to petition that the temple may serve the purpose for which it was built, to keep God’s covenant central in the lives of the people.
Thomas Constable: In his prayer, Solomon explained the significance of God coming to indwell His temple. God had come to empower, to have fellowship, and to judge, if necessary. God was present among His people, and He would hear their prayers when they obediently called out to Him.
Solomon acknowledged that God had fulfilled some of the promises of the Davidic Covenant already (v. 15), but he also saw that there were others yet unfulfilled. He called on God to grant them (v. 16).
Solomon’s view of God was that He was both transcendent (above all) and immanent (at hand, v. 18). Even though God is everywhere at once, He can and does localize—but not limit—His presence as well (e.g., the incarnate Christ, cf. John 2:20-21). At this period in history, He localized His presence in the temple. Nevertheless, in heaven, He would hear the prayers of His people, wherever they might be when they called out to Him (vv. 38-39).
Solomon specified seven specific situations in which he asked the LORD (Yahweh) to intervene in answer to prayer. These were when the people swore an oath in the temple (vv. 22-23), suffered defeat and exile from an enemy (vv. 24-25), and lacked rain (vv. 26-27). They were also when they experienced disease or other disasters (vv. 28-31), and when foreigners would come to pray toward the temple (vv. 32-33). The final two situations were when Israel was at war (vv. 34-35), and when Israel was in captivity due to sin (vv. 36-39).
In this prayer, there is plenty of evidence that Solomon understood God’s purpose for Israel. He referred to God’s name Yahweh 14 times, showing his concern for the reputation of Israel’s God. His concern for foreigners (vv. 32-33) shows that he realized that Israel was to reach out and share the knowledge and blessings of God with Gentiles. His concern for Israel’s restoration and cleansing, following sin, shows that he realized that Israel would need forgiveness in order to return to fellowship with God and fruitfulness as His servant.
Mark Boda: The remainder of chapter 6 is filled with Solomon’s long prayer to God. The prayer is introduced by a description of Solomon standing in the outer courtyard between the bronze altar and the assembled community of Israel. The Chronicler adds to his source in 1 Kings 8 the description of the bronze platform Solomon had constructed for the occasion (6:13). This verse carefully delineates that although Solomon was standing, he subsequently knelt while lifting his hands toward heaven. The Chronicler’s description places Solomon in the posture of humility in this sacred precinct.
(:12-13) PROLOGUE – PLACE AND POSTURE IN APPROACHING GOD IN PRAYER
A. (:12) Posture of Standing before the Altar
“Then he stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands.”
Frederick Mabie: The description of Solomon as standing, spreading out his hands, and kneeling reflect the variety of postures of worship attested in the OT (cf. 2Ch 29:29–30; Ne 9:1–3; Pss 5:7; 141:2). Such outward gestures and postures reflect submission to God, respect of his power, reverence, and the like. . . Solomon’s posture of kneeling declares his submission to the lordship and sovereignty of God in the presence of the Israelite assembly. The term for the platform used by Solomon (kîyôr; GK 3963) can refer to an elevated area used for official functions as reflected in the biblical world.
Andrew Hill: Bodily movement in worship generally, and posture in prayer specifically, are important parts of one’s response to God because outward actions demonstrate and reinforce inward attitudes and beliefs. Typically, kneeling symbolizes reverence, even fear, before the deity, while spreading out raised hands is an act of veneration (i.e., blessing and praise) of the deity (cf. 1 Tim. 2:8).
B. (:13) Posture of Kneeling before the Assembly
“Now 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 on his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven.”
I. (:14-17) PETITION FOR POSTERITY – FULFILMENT OF PROMISES REGARDING DAVIDIC DYNASTY
Frederick Mabie: Solomon again declares God as one who steadfastly keeps his Word (cf. 2Ch 6:4–11), most particularly with respect to God’s covenantal relationship with Israel (a “covenant of love”—habberît wehaḥesed) and God’s delegation of leadership through the Davidic covenant. Note that the statement of v.16 is not found in the biblical texts typically associated with Yahweh’s (initial) declaration of the Davidic covenant (e.g., 2Sa 7:5–16; 1Ch 17:4–14), but the notion of David’s never failing to have a descendant sit on the throne of Israel is reflected in subsequent biblical passages (see esp. Jer 33:17) and must have been communicated to David in another setting not recorded in the biblical text.
A. (:14-15) Foundation for Making Requests of God
1. (:14) Praise for God’s Uniqueness in Displaying Covenant Love
“And he said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, there is no god like Thee in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Thy servants who walk before Thee with all their heart;”
Andrew Hill: The threefold repetition of God’s covenant name, “LORD, God of Israel” (6:14, 16, 17) addresses his majesty as Lord of creation (cf. 6:18), while the emphasis on his covenant love speaks to his uniqueness and incomparability as the one true God (6:14). As Wilcock admonishes us, “before we ask God for anything we remind ourselves of his character.” Solomon’s prayer for the continuation of the Davidic dynasty is ultimately the Chronicler’s prayer as well. The stylized retelling of the temple dedication ceremony is a call to prayer to the postexilic Jewish community with the hope that God will keep his promise to David and Solomon and reestablish the throne of David in Israel.
2. (:15) Praise for God’s Past Faithfulness to His Promises to David
“who has kept with Thy servant David, my father, that which Thou hast promised him; indeed, Thou hast spoken with Thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with Thy hand, as it is this day.”
Martin Selman: As with so many prayers in Scripture, Solomon begins with praise (vv. 14-15) before making any requests (vv. 16-17). The praise concentrates on two aspects of God’s nature, that he is unique (there is no God like you in heaven or on earth, v. 14a), and that he is faithful to his covenant of love with his obedient people (vv. 14b-15). Mention of the Davidic covenant seems to inspire repeated praise about God’s incomparability (1 Ch. 17:20; cf. 1 Ch. 16:25-26; 2 Ch. 2:5). Such praise arises from hearts committed to God (wholeheartedly, JB, NIV, v. 14), a repeated emphasis in this chapter (vv. 7, 8, 30; cf. 1 Ch. 29:17-19).
B. (:16-17) Future Faithful Performance of Covenant Promises Requested
1. (:16) Permanence of Davidic Dynasty
“Now therefore, O LORD, the God of Israel, keep with Thy servant David, my father, that which Thou hast promised him, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way, to walk in My law as you have walked before Me.’”
2. (:17) Performance of Davidic Covenant
“Now therefore, O LORD, the God of Israel, let Thy word be confirmed which Thou hast spoken to Thy servant David.”
II. (:18-21) PLEA FOR RESPONSIVENESS TO INTERCESSION FOR ISRAEL
Frederick Mabie: Solomon’s statement that even the highest heavens cannot hold the Creator God (v.18) underscores that although God will localize his presence and glory in the Solomonic temple, no man-made, finite structure can house the infinite God. Yet God’s ontological and epistemological accommodation to humankind in both the matter of the temple and even the matter of hearing Solomon’s prayer (v.19) emphatically showcases God’s grace and love toward his people.
A. (:18) Responsive Despite God’s Transcendence
“But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth?
Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee;
how much less this house which I have built.”
Don Fortner: The condescension of the eternal, almighty, holy, and sovereign God to dwell with men upon earth is an astonishing act of grace. He who came to dwell with men on the earth is…
1. The Infinite God.
2. The Incarnate God.
3. The Indwelling God.
4. The Immaculate God.
B. (:19-21) Responsive Both to the Prayers of God’s Servant (King Solomon) and God’s People (the nation Israel)
“Yet have regard to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Thy servant prays before Thee; 20 that Thine eyes may be open toward this house day and night, toward the place of which Thou hast said that Thou wouldst put Thy name there, to listen to the prayer which Thy servant shall pray toward this place. 21 And listen to the supplications of Thy servant and of Thy people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear Thou from Thy dwelling place, from heaven; hear Thou and forgive.”
III. (:22-39) PARTICULARS OF INTERCESSION REGARDING A VARIETY OF CIRCUMSTANCES
A. (:22-23) Case Study #1 = Oaths in Interpersonal Conflicts
1. (:22a) Scenario
“If a man sins against his neighbor, and is made to take an oath,”
2. (:22b) Human Action Required
“and he comes and takes an oath before Thine altar in this house,”
3. (:23) Divine Response Requested
“then hear Thou from heaven and act and judge Thy servants,
punishing the wicked by bringing his way on his own head
and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness.”
B. (:24-25) Case Study #2 = Defeated by an Enemy Due to Sin
1. (:24a) Scenario
“And if Thy people Israel are defeated before an enemy,
because they have sinned against Thee,”
2. (:24b) Human Action Required
“and they return to Thee and confess Thy name,
and pray and make supplication before Thee in this house,”
3. (:25) Divine Response Requested
“then hear Thou from heaven and forgive the sin of Thy people Israel, and bring them back to the land which Thou hast given to them and to their fathers.”
J.A. Thompson: While the main themes in Solomon’s prayer were the Davidic dynasty, the temple, and prayer itself, two other themes also occur—war (6:24–25; 34–37) and the land (6:25, 27–28, 31, 38). Defeat in battle is the result of sinning against God. The people are required to turn back to God, confess his name, pray, and make supplication before him in the temple. Solomon made the plea that God would hear their confession, forgive their sin, and bring them back to the land he had given to them and their fathers. War, of course, often involved exile.
C. (:26-27) Case Study #3 = Drought Due to Sin
“When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain
because they have sinned against Thee,”
2. Human Action Required
“and they pray toward this place and confess Thy name,
and turn from their sin when Thou dost afflict them;”
3. Divine Response Requested
“then hear Thou in heaven and forgive the sin of Thy servants and Thy people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Thy land, which Thou hast given to Thy people for an inheritance.”
Raymond Dillard: Ancient Israel was an agrarian society with sufficient rainfall in most of the land that irrigation was not necessary. Agriculture was dependent on the regularity of the seasonal rains, particularly both the early rains to soften the ground for plowing in the fall, and the latter rains to swell the crop before harvest in the spring; adequate rainfall was a sign of divine blessing, and low rainfall of divine anger (Lev 26:3–4; Deut 11:13–14; 28:23–24; Prov 16:15; Jer 3:3; 5:24; Hos 6:3; 10:1; Joel 2:23; Cant 2:11; Acts 14:17; Heb 6:7; Jas 5:17; Amos 4:6–8). The divine response to Solomon’s prayer about drought is a promise of healing the land (7:13–14).
D. (:28-31) Case Study #4 = Disasters (Famine, Pestilence, Plague, etc.)
1. (:28) Scenario
“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight or mildew, if there is locust or grasshopper, if their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities, whatever plague or whatever sickness there is,”
2. (:29) Human Action Required
“whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Thy people Israel, each knowing his own affliction and his own pain, and spreading his hands toward this house,”
3. (:30) Divine Response Requested
“then hear Thou from heaven Thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart Thou knowest for Thou alone dost know the hearts of the sons of men,”
4. (:31) Human Reaction Expected
“that they may fear Thee, to walk in Thy ways as long as they live in the land which Thou hast given to our fathers.”
J.A. Thompson: Famine or plague, blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, and the ravages of war recurred from time to time. Famine in the ancient Near East derived from natural causes such as drought, disease, or insects (Gen 12:10; 26:1; 41:1–57; Ruth 1:1; 2 Sam 21:1; 24:13; 1 Chr 21:12; 1 Kgs 18:1–2); the ravages of warfare through the confiscation and burning of crops (Judg 6:3–6; 15:3–5); and through siege (Lev 26:25–26; 2 Kgs 6:24–25; 2 Kgs 25:1–3; 2 Chr 32:11; Isa 31:19; Jer 14:11–18; 16:4; 21:7–9). Plague or pestilence affected animals (Exod 9:3; Ps 78:48–50), men (Lev 26:25–26; Num 14:12; 1 Chr 21:12), and crops. Israel’s special geographical location on the only land bridge between the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa brought a lot of commercial traffic through the area and made the land subject to the easy spread of disease and epidemics from neighboring lands.
An important theological principle is set out in v. 30. God is requested to “deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart [for you alone know the hearts of men].” God is a God of justice and deals with people as individuals. The prayer of the nation (the people Israel) is in the final analysis the prayer of the needy individual.
E. (:32-33) Case Study #5 = Foreigners Praying
1. (:32a) Scenario
“Also concerning the foreigner who is not from Thy people Israel,”
2. (:32b) Human Action Required
“when he comes from a far country for Thy great name’s sake and Thy mighty hand and Thine outstretched arm, when they come and pray toward this house,”
3. (:33a) Divine Response Requested
“then hear Thou from heaven, from Thy dwelling place,
and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to Thee,”
4. (:33b) Human Reaction Expected
“in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name, and fear Thee, as do Thy people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Thy name.”
F. (:34-35) Case Study #6 = War
1. (:34a) Scenario
“When Thy people go out to battle against their enemies,
by whatever way Thou shalt send them,”
2. (:34b) Human Action Required
“and they pray to Thee toward this city which Thou hast chosen,
and the house which I have built for Thy name,”
3. (:35) Divine Response Requested
“then hear Thou from heaven their prayer and their supplication,
and maintain their cause.”
G. (:36-39) Case Study #7 = National Exile and Captivity Due to Sin
1. (:36) Scenario
“When they sin against Thee (for there is no man who does not sin) and Thou art angry with them and dost deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to a land far off or near,”
2. (:37-38) Human Action Required
“if they take thought in the land where they are taken captive, and repent and make supplication to Thee in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have committed iniquity, and have acted wickedly’; 38 if they return to Thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been taken captive, and pray toward their land which Thou hast given to their fathers, and the city which Thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for Thy name,”
3. (:39) Divine Response Requested
“then hear from heaven, from Thy dwelling place, their prayer and supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive Thy people who have sinned against Thee.”
Iain Duguid: The final petition (vv. 36–39) is rephrased slightly in order to be relevant for the Chronicler’s hearers. No more is there any need to pray that the exiles (“captives”) might receive “compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive” (1 Kings 8:50b), for the Persians have already enabled the exiles to return. Similarly, after a brief mention of an “enemy” who carried them “captive” (2 Chron. 6:36), other references in Kings to “enemies” or “captors” are changed to the abstract “captivity” (vv. 37, 38). No longer are people who continue in the “land of their captivity” held there against their will, but it is still relevant to pray that they too would “repent” and “pray toward their land . . . , the city . . . , and the house” (v. 38). No matter where people are located, they are to pray toward the temple in Jerusalem and to look to God to “maintain their cause and forgive” them.
Mark Boda: The scenario makes it very clear that God’s anger had been the cause of the disaster, something that is not made clear in any of the other scenarios. Furthermore, while the second scenario mentions exile in the divine response, here the Exile is highlighted from the outset. The human action required in this scenario provides clear evidence that this scenario is the climax of the series. Not only are the human actions of repentance and prayer described twice (“turn to you in repentance and pray . . . turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their captivity and pray toward the land . . . city . . . Temple”), but the actual content of the penitential prayer is offered to the reader, “We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.” Here we find the three key words for sinful actions in Hebrew used together to accentuate the depth of the wickedness of the people but at the same time the thoroughness of their confession.
IV. (:40-42) PRESENCE OF GOD INVOKED
A. (:40) Be Attentive
“Now, O my God, I pray Thee, let Thine eyes be open,
and Thine ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place.”
B. (:41a) Be Active
“Now therefore arise, O LORD God, to Thy resting place,
Thou and the ark of Thy might;”
J.A. Thompson: Verse 40 is reminiscent of 1 Kgs 8:52, although vv. 41–42 are based on Ps 132:8–10. In concluding his prayer, Solomon based his expectation of God’s favorable response on the divine promises to David. In the Kings account of Solomon’s prayer, the ground for God’s answer is his unique relationship to Israel deriving from the exodus (1 Kgs 8:50–53). In place of a reference to the themes of election and redemption in the exodus, he finds an adequate basis of appeal to God in Ps 132:1, 8–10. God is called upon to arise and come to his resting place.
August Konkel: The prayer closes with a quotation of Psalm 132:8–10, calling attention to David’s deep passion for the restoration of the ark to its proper function. “Arise, O LORD” is a military cry given in Numbers 10:35–36 (NRSV). God arises to scatter the enemies when the people move, and returns as the Lord of Israel’s myriads of thousands when they rest. The ark is the ultimate symbol of God’s rest, his claim to the land that carries his name. David seeks a resting place for the ark, the place where the throne of God rises and he is worshiped by the hosts of Israel. The impact of Psalm 132 is increased by two changes in this citation. In 2 Chronicles 6:42 the lines from verse 10 of the psalm are reversed, placing an emphasis on the faithfulness of God. Second, part of the last line is drawn from Isaiah 55:3, which makes reference to the mercies of David. This phrase can be taken in two ways:
(1) it may be the mercies David receives, or
(2) it may be the mercies that God gives through David—which is meant in both Isaiah and Chronicles (NIV).
The mercies of David express loyalty to a commitment made. Loyalty to promises is the best way of showing mercy. God’s loyalty through his promises to David has just been demonstrated, providing assurance that these mercies are available for Israel.
C. (:41b) Be Accommodating
“let Thy priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation,
and let Thy godly ones rejoice in what is good.”
D. (:42) Be Accepting
1. Stated Negatively
“O LORD God, do not turn away the face of Thine anointed;”
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown: The words are equivalent in meaning to this: “Do not reject my present petitions; do not send me from thy throne of grace dejected in countenance and disappointed in heart.”
2. Stated Positively
“remember Thy lovingkindness to Thy servant David.”
J.A. Thompson: The phrase “kindnesses promised to David” makes use of the plural form of the important noun ḥesed, which stressed the faithfulness, loyalty, and loving-kindness of God. The task of temple building was completed, and the way was now clear for God to establish the eternal Davidic dynasty in accordance with his promise. While this is not a messianic promise in the full sense, it strongly suggests that there is an abiding validity for the Davidic line. The completion of the temple served to confirm such a hope. There was more to the promise to David than the mere building of a temple.
Mark Boda: These closing two verses emphasize three key issues for the Chronicler. There was an enduring desire for the manifest presence of God to be experienced in the second Temple of his day and for the restoration of the Davidic line to be the throne of an independent kingdom. Until then, the Chronicler with his Levitical sensibilities asked that both priests and people would experience the grace and goodness of God.