1 Kings 8:1-12 . THE DEDICATION OF THE TEMPLE.
2-6. at the feast in the month Ethanim--The public and formal inauguration of this national place of worship did not take place till eleven months after the completion of the edifice. The delay, most probably, originated in Solomon's wish to choose the most fitting opportunity when there should be a general rendezvous of the people in Jerusalem; and that was not till the next year. That was a jubilee year, and he resolved on commencing the solemn ceremonial a few days before the feast of tabernacles, which was the most appropriate of all seasons. That annual festival had been instituted in commemoration of the Israelites dwelling in booths during their stay in the wilderness, as well as of the tabernacle, which was then erected, in which God promised to meet and dwell with His people, sanctifying it with His glory. As the tabernacle was to be superseded by the temple, there was admirable propriety in choosing the feast of tabernacles as the period for dedicating the new place of worship, and praying that the same distinguished privileges might be continued to it in the manifestation of the divine presence and glory. At the time appointed for the inauguration, the king issued orders for all the heads and representatives of the nation to repair to Jerusalem and take part in the august procession [ 1 Kings 8:1 ]. The lead was taken by the king and elders of the people, whose march must have been slow, as priests were stationed to offer an immense number of sacrifices at various points in the line of road through which the procession was to go. Then came the priests bearing the ark and the tabernacle--the old Mosaic tabernacle which was brought from Gibeon. Lastly, the Levites followed, carrying the vessels and ornaments belonging to the old, for lodgment in the new, house of the Lord. There was a slight deviation in this procedure from the order of march established in the wilderness ( Numbers 3:31 , 4:15 ); but the spirit of the arrangement was duly observed. The ark was deposited in the oracle; that is, the most holy place, under the wings of the cherubim--not the Mosaic cherubim, which were firmly attached to the ark ( Exodus 37:7 Exodus 37:8 ), but those made by Solomon, which were far larger and more expanded.
8. they drew out the staves--a little way, so as to project was, that these projecting staves might serve as a guide to the high priest, in conducting him to that place where, once a year, he went to officiate before the ark; otherwise he might miss his way in the dark, the ark being wholly overshadowed by the wings of the cherubim.
9. There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone--Nothing else was ever in the ark, the articles mentioned ( Hebrews 9:4 ) being not in, but by it, being laid in the most holy place before the testimony ( Exodus 16:33 , Numbers 17:10 ).
10, 11. the cloud filled the house of the Lord--The cloud was the visible symbol of the divine presence, and its occupation of the sanctuary was a testimony of God's gracious acceptance of the temple as of the tabernacle ( Exodus 40:34 ). The dazzling brightness, or rather, perhaps, the dense portentous darkness of the cloud, struck the minds of the priests, as it formerly had done Moses, which such astonishment and terror ( Leviticus 16:2-13 , Deuteronomy 4:24 , Exodus 40:35 ) that they could not remain. Thus the temple became the place where the divine glory was revealed, and the king of Israel established his royal residence.
1 Kings 8:12-21 . SOLOMON'S BLESSING.
12. Then spake Solomon--For the reassurance of the priests and people, the king reminded them that the cloud, instead of being a sign ominous of evil, was a token of approval.
The Lord said--not in express terms, but by a continuous course of action ( Exodus 13:21 , 24:16 , Numbers 9:15 ).
13. I have surely built thee an house--This is an apostrophe to God, as perceiving His approach by the cloud, and welcoming Him to enter as guest or inhabitant of the fixed and permanent dwelling-place, which, at His command, had been prepared for His reception.
14. the king turned his face about--From the temple, where he had been watching the movement of the mystic cloud, and while the people were standing, partly as the attitude of devotion, partly out of respect to royalty, the king gave a fervent expression of praise to God for the fulfilment of His promise ( 2 Samuel 7:6-16 ).
1 Kings 8:22-61 . HIS PRAYER.
22. Solomon stood before the altar--This position was in the court of the people, on a brazen scaffold erected for the occasion ( 2 Chronicles 6:13 ), fronting the altar of burnt offering, and surrounded by a mighty concourse of people. Assuming the attitude of a suppliant, kneeling ( 1 Kings 8:54 ; compare 2 Chronicles 6:24 ) and with uplifted hands, he performed the solemn act of consecration--an act remarkable, among other circumstances, for this, that it was done, not by the high priest or any member of the Aaronic family, but by the king in person, who might minister about, though not in, holy things. This sublime prayer [ 1 Kings 8:22-35 ], which breathes sentiments of the loftiest piety blended with the deepest humility, naturally bore a reference to the national blessing and curse contained in the law--and the burden of it--after an ascription of praise to the Lord for the bestowment of the former, was an earnest supplication for deliverance from the latter. He specifies seven cases in which the merciful interposition of God would be required; and he earnestly bespeaks it on the condition of people praying towards that holy place. The blessing addressed to the people at the close is substantially a brief recapitulation of the preceding prayer [ 1 Kings 8:56-61 ].
1 Kings 8:62-64 . HIS SACRIFICE OF PEACE OFFERING.
62. the king, and all Israel . . . offered sacrifice before the Lord--This was a burnt offering with its accompaniments, and being the first laid on the altar of the temple, was, as in the analogous case of the tabernacle, consumed by miraculous fire from heaven (see 2 Chronicles 7:1 ). On remarkable occasions, the heathens sacrificed hecatombs (a hundred animals), and even chiliombs (a thousand animals), but the public sacrifices offered by Solomon on this occasion surpassed all the other oblations on record, without taking into account those presented by private individuals, which, doubtless, amounted to a large additional number. The large proportion of the sacrifices were peace offerings, which afforded the people an opportunity of festive enjoyment.
63. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord--The dedication was not a ceremony ordained by the law, but it was done in accordance with the sentiments of reverence naturally associated with edifices appropriated to divine worship.
64. The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court--that is, the whole extent of the priests' court--the altar of burnt offerings, though large ( 2 Chronicles 4:1 ), being totally inadequate for the vast number of sacrifices that distinguished this occasion. It was only a temporary erection to meet the demands of an extraordinary season, in aid of the established altar, and removed at the conclusion of the sacred festival.
1 Kings 8:65 . THE PEOPLE JOYFUL.
65. from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt--that is, from one extremity of the kingdom to the other. The people flocked from all quarters.
seven days and seven days, even fourteen days--The first seven were occupied with the dedication, and the other seven devoted to the feast of tabernacles ( 2 Chronicles 7:9 ). The particular form of expression indicates that the fourteen days were not continuous. Some interval occurred in consequence of the great day of atonement falling on the tenth of the seventh month ( 1 Kings 8:2 ), and the last day of the feast of tabernacles was on the twenty-third ( 2 Chronicles 7:10 ), when the people returned to their homes with feelings of the greatest joy and gratitude "for all the goodness that the Lord had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people."