Solomon's buildings. (1-12) Furniture of the temple. (13-47) Vessels of gold. (48-51)
Verses 1-12 All Solomon's buildings, though beautiful, were intended for use. Solomon began with the temple; he built for God first, and then his other buildings. The surest foundations of lasting prosperity are laid in early piety. He was thirteen years building his house, yet he built the temple in little more than seven years; not that he was more exact, but less eager in building his own house, than in building God's. We ought to prefer God's honour before our own ease and satisfaction.
Verses 13-47 The two brazen pillars in the porch of the temple, some think, were to teach those that came to worship, to depend upon God only, for strength and establishment in all their religious exercises. "Jachin," God will fix this roving mind. It is good that the heart be established with grace. "Boaz," In him is our strength, who works in us both to will and to do. Spiritual strength and stability are found at the door of God's temple, where we must wait for the gifts of grace, in use of the means of grace. Spiritual priests and spiritual sacrifices must be washed in the laver of Christ's blood, and of regeneration. We must wash often, for we daily contract pollution. There are full means provided for our cleansing; so that if we have our lot for ever among the unclean it will be our own fault. Let us bless God for the fountain opened by the sacrifice of Christ for sin and for uncleanness.
Verses 48-51 Christ is now the Temple and the Builder; the Altar and the Sacrifice; the Light of our souls, and the Bread of life; able to supply all the wants of all that have applied or shall apply to him. Outward images cannot represent, words cannot express, the heart cannot conceive, his preciousness or his love. Let us come to him, and wash away our sins in his blood; let us seek for the purifying grace of his Spirit; let us maintain communion with the Father through his intercession, and yield up ourselves and all we have to his service. Being strengthened by him, we shall be accepted, useful, and happy.
1 Kings 7:1 . BUILDING OF SOLOMON'S HOUSE.
1. Solomon was building his own house thirteen years--The time occupied in building his palace was nearly double that spent in the erection of the temple ( 1 Kings 6:38 ), because neither had there been the same previous preparations for it, nor was there the same urgency as in providing a place of worship, on which the national well-being so much depended.
1 Kings 7:2-7 . OF THE HOUSE OF LEBANON.
2. He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon--It is scarcely possible to determine whether this was a different edifice from the former, or whether his house, the house of the forest of Lebanon, and the one for Pharaoh's daughter, were not parts of one grand palace. As difficult is it to decide what was the origin of the name; some supposing it was so called because built on Lebanon; others, that it was in or near Jerusalem, but contained such a profuse supply of cedar columns as to have occasioned this peculiar designation. We have a similar peculiarity of name in the building called the East India house, though situated in London. The description is conformable to the arrangement of Eastern palaces. The building stood in the middle of a great oblong square, which was surrounded by an enclosing wall, against which the houses and offices of those attached to the court were built. The building itself was oblong, consisting of two square courts, flanking a large oblong hall which formed the center, and was one hundred cubits long, by fifty broad. This was properly the house of the forest of Lebanon, being the part where were the cedar pillars of this hall. In front was the porch of judgment, which was appropriated to the transaction of public business. On the one side of this great hall was the king's house; and on the other the harem or royal apartments for Pharaoh's daughter ( Esther 2:3 Esther 2:9 ). This arrangement of the palace accords with the Oriental style of building, according to which a great mansion always consists of three divisions, or separate houses--all connected by doors and passages--the men dwelling at one extremity, the women of the family at the other, while public rooms occupy the central part of the building.
10. the foundation was of costly stones, even great stones--Enormous stones, corresponding exactly with the dimensions given, are found in Jerusalem at this day. Not only the walls from the foundation to the roof beams were built of large hewn stones, but the spacious court around the palace was also paved with great square stones.
12. for the inner court of the house of the Lord--should be, as in the inner court of the house of the Lord; the meaning is, that in this palace, as in the temple, rows of hewed stones and the cedar beams formed the enclosing wall.
1 Kings 7:13-51 . HIRAM'S WORKS.
13. Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre--The Tyrians and other inhabitants on the Phoenician coast were the most renowned artists and workers in metal in the ancient world.
14. He was a widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali--In 2 Chronicles 2:14 his mother is said to have been of the daughters of Dan. The apparent discrepancy may be reconciled thus: Hiram's mother, though belonging to the tribe of Dan, had been married to a Naphtalite, so that when married afterwards to a Tyrian, she might be described as a widow of the tribe of Naphtali. Or, if she was a native of the city Dan (Laish), she might be said to be of the daughters of Dan, as born in that place; and of the tribe of Naphtali, as really belonging to it.
a worker in brass--This refers particularly to the works described in this chapter. But in 2 Chronicles 2:13 his artistic skill is represented as extending to a great variety of departments. In fact, he was appointed, from his great natural talents and acquired skill, to superintend the execution of all the works of art in the temple.
15-22. two pillars of brass of eighteen cubits high--They were made of the brass (bronze) which was taken from the king of Zobah ( 1 Chronicles 18:8 ). In 2 Chronicles 3:15 they are said to have been thirty-five cubits high. There, however, their joint lengths are given; whereas here the length of the pillars is given separately. Each pillar was seventeen and a half cubits long, which is stated, in round numbers, as eighteen. Their dimensions in American measure are as follows: The pillars without the capitals measured thirty-two and a half feet long, and seven feet diameter; and if hollow, as WHISTON, in his translation of JOSEPHUS, thinks ( Jeremiah 52:21 ), the metal would be about three and a half inches thick; so that the whole casting of one pillar must have been from sixteen to twenty tons. The height of the capitals was eight and three-fourths feet; and, at the same thickness of metal, would not weigh less than seven or eight tons each. The nature of the workmanship in the finishing of these capitals is described ( 1 Kings 7:17-22 ). The pillars, when set up, would stand forty feet in height [NAPIER, Metal].
17, 18. nets of checker work--that is, branch-work, resembling the branches of palm trees, and
wreaths of chain-work--that is, plaited in the form of a chain, composing a sort of crown or garland. Seven of these were wound in festoons on one capital, and over and underneath them were fringes, one hundred in a row. Two rows of pomegranates strung on chains ( 2 Chronicles 3:16 ) ran round the capital ( 1 Kings 7:42 ; compare 2 Chronicles 4:12 2 Chronicles 4:13 , Jeremiah 52:23 ), which, itself, was of a bowl-like or globular form ( 1 Kings 7:41 ). These rows were designed to form a binding to the ornamental work--to keep it from falling asunder; and they were so placed as to be above the chain work, and below the place where the branch-work was.
19. lily work--beautiful ornaments, resembling the stalks, leaves, and blossoms of lilies--of large dimensions, as suited to the height of their position.
21. Jachin and . . . Boaz--These names were symbolical, and indicated the strength and stability--not so much of the material temple, for they were destroyed along with it ( Jeremiah 52:17 ), as of the spiritual kingdom of God, which was embodied in the temple.
23-26. he made a molten sea--In the tabernacle was no such vessel; the laver served the double purpose of washing the hands and feet of the priests as well as the parts of the sacrifices. But in the temple there were separate vessels provided for these offices. The molten sea was an immense semicircular vase, measuring seventeen and a half feet in diameter, and being eight and three-fourths feet in depth. This, at three and a half inches in thickness, could not weigh less than from twenty-five to thirty tons in one solid casting--and held from sixteen thousand to twenty thousand gallons of water. lily work or flowers; and oxen were carved or cut on the outside all round, to the number of three hundred; and it stood on a pedestal of twelve oxen. These oxen must have been of considerable size, like the Assyrian bulls, so that their corresponding legs would give thickness or strength to support so great a weight for, when the vessel was filled with water, the whole weight would be about one hundred tons [NAPIER].
27-39. he made ten bases of brass--These were trucks or four-wheeled carriages, for the support and conveyance of the lavers. The description of their structure shows that they were elegantly fitted up and skilfully adapted to their purpose. They stood, not on the axles, but on four rests attached to the axles, so that the figured sides were considerably raised above the wheels. They were all exactly alike in form and size. The lavers which were borne upon them were vessels capable each of holding three hundred gallons of water, upwards of a ton weight. The whole, when full of water, would be no less than two tons [NAPIER].
40-45. And Hiram made the lavers, and the shovels, and the basins--These verses contain a general enumeration of Hiram's works, as well as those already mentioned as other minor things. The Tyrian artists are frequently mentioned by ancient authors as skilful artificers in fashioning and embossing metal cups and bowls; and we need not wonder, therefore, to find them employed by Solomon in making the golden and brazen utensils for his temple and palaces.
46. In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them--Zarthan, or Zaretan ( Joshua 3:16 ), or Zartanah ( 1 Kings 4:12 ), or Zeredathah ( 2 Chronicles 4:17 ), was on the bank of the Jordan in the territories of western Manasseh. Succoth was situated on the eastern side of Jordan, at the ford of the river near the mouth of the Jabbok. One reason assigned by commentators for the castings being made there is, that at such a distance from Jerusalem that city would not be annoyed by the smoke and noxious vapors necessarily occasioned by the process. [Note in Bagster's Bible.] But the true reason is to be found in the nature of the soil; Margin, "the thickness of the ground." That part of the Jordan valley abounds with marl. Clay and sand are the moulding material still used for bronze. Such large quantities of metal as one of these castings would contain could not be fused in one furnace, but would require a series of furnaces, especially for such a casting as the brazen sea--the whole series of furnaces being filled with metal, and fused at one time, and all tapped together, and the metal let run into the mould. Thus a national foundry was erected in the plain of Jordan [NAPIER].
48. the altar of gold--that is, the altar of incense.
49. candlesticks of pure gold--made, probably, according to the model of that in the tabernacle, which, along with the other articles of furniture, were deposited with due honor, as sacred relics, in the temple. But these seem not to have been used in the temple service; for Solomon made new lavers tables, and candlesticks, ten of each. (See further regarding the dimensions and furniture of the temple, in 2 Chronicles 3:1-5:14').