1 Kings 6:1–9:9
Main Idea: The construction of the temple and the prayer of dedication show us the uniqueness, faithfulness, holiness, grace, and mission of God.
I. Treasure the Promises of God (6:1,37-38).
II. Marvel at the Holiness of God (6:2-10,14-36).
A. The size of the temple (6:2)
B. The structure of the temple (6:3-10,14-36)
III. Submit to the Word of God (6:11-13; 7:1-12).
A. Solomon’s heart (6:11-13)
B. Solomon’s house (7:1-12)
IV. Use Your Skills to the Glory of God (7:13-51).
V. Pour Out Your Heart to God (8:1-66).
A. Celebration and sacrifice (8:1-13,62-66)
B. Blessing (8:14-21,54-61)
C. Sevenfold petition (8:22-53)
1. A prayer for justice (vv. 31-32)
2. A prayer for rescue (vv. 33-34)
3. A prayer for provision (vv. 35-36)
4. A prayer for deliverance (vv. 37-40)
5. A prayer for outsiders (vv. 41-43)
6. A prayer for victory (vv. 44-45)
7. A prayer for restoration (vv. 46-53)
VI. Listen to the Warning from God (9:1-9).
Prepare for an all-you-can-eat meal. I don’t mean a cheap buffet but a five-star Brazilian steakhouse! In these chapters the uniqueness of God, the faithfulness of God, the holiness of God, the grace of God, the mission of God, the warnings of God, a marvelous prayer, and many more soul-strengthening truths about God’s greatness are set before us.
Solomon had many construction projects (cf. 1 Kgs 9:10ff; 2 Chr 8). Here, we read of his personal palace and the most important project: the temple. Solomon’s temple stood for four centuries, and it was the only building the people rebuilt after the exile. After we read of the construction of the temple, we read of Solomon’s prayer of dedication.
From the previous chapter we know that Solomon, the incredibly wise yet sometimes foolish king, is reigning over Israel in a time of great prosperity. It was a season of peace, great wealth, remarkable literature, and worldwide fame. In chapters 5–8 we read of another reason for Solomon’s fame. God promised that Solomon would build the temple to the glory of God (8:5-21; 2 Sam 7:12-16). Here we see that promise being fulfilled.
Some of the technical language we meet here leaves us with questions. I’m not going to try to answer all of these questions because that’s not the purpose of this commentary. Further, we should probably assume that the original readers had background knowledge and could fill in some of the blanks. Some details are better covered in 2 Chronicles 2–8; you should read it along with Kings. Also, some details are omitted because of the nature of the book itself. Kings isn’t a construction manual. The information here isn’t meant for you to go build a temple! It’s here for you to behold God’s glory.
Our hearts should be moved to worship with the psalmist who proclaimed, “Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary” (Ps 96:6). David dreamed of seeing the splendor. He said, “I have asked one thing from the Lord . . . to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple” (Ps 27:4). Indeed, many psalms come to mind like this one: “Worship Yahweh in the splendor of His holiness” (Ps 29:2). As we reflect on the beauty of God’s holiness, may we also reflect on these words: “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev 11:45; 1 Pet 1:16). The temple should cause us to elevate our concept of God and, in seeing Him, cause us to worship and serve Him with more passion.
I want to make five applications from these chapters. The first four come from the construction of the temple (chs. 6–7), and the last one, which has several components, comes from chapter 8. A warning follows these.
Treasure the Promises of God
1 Kings 6:1,37-38
We noticed in chapter 5 that the king used his wisdom to acquire the necessary materials for the temple. Thousands of workers were needed. Now, in the 480th year after the people came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, they begin building (6:1). This date is about theology as well as chronology. The writer shows us the continuation of the story of redemption. We’re reading about a new era in redemptive history. The exodus was that great event in the history of Israel in which God brought out His people from bondage (after 430 years of slavery; Exod 12:40). God had promised to deliver them from Egypt (Exod 6:6), and God later promised that Israel would settle in the land and build a house for Him (Exod 15:17; Deut 12:10-11; 16:2; 2 Sam 7:12-13). Throughout these chapters, a repeated refrain is that God keeps His promises.
We might think God takes a long time, but remember, God doesn’t play by a shot clock! He keeps His promises, but it’s on His own timetable. Our job is to trust Him, to wait on Him. God also promised that Messiah would come, and in the fullness of time He did (Gal 4:4). In Scripture we read of the great redemption provided by Jesus. In Him we find ultimate freedom and rest. We now await the fulfillment of the last act in the redemptive drama. And that day will come. Luther said, “There are two days on my calendar, today and ‘that day.’” We can be certain that “that day” will come.
Paul prayed that the Ephesians would “know what is the hope of His calling” (Eph 1:18). Biblical hope isn’t a wish. It’s a settled reality. You can take God at His word. You can trust that God cares for His people. You can trust that all things are working for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28); that His glory will one day be revealed (Rom 8:18); and that this light, momentary affliction will give way to eternal glory (2 Cor 4:17). Treasure His promises.
At the end of the chapter, the writer says the temple was completed in seven years (6:38), or more precisely seven years and six months (Provan, 1 and 2 Kings, 67). God keeps His promises so we should treasure them.
Marvel at the Holiness of God
1 Kings 6:2-10,14-36
The Size of the Temple (6:2)
In the wilderness wandering God’s people built a tabernacle, which was a portable structure used for worship. The temple, however, was a permanent residence. The temple was similar to the tabernacle in structure, but it was bigger and more glorious in every way. The temple was measured in cubits. A cubit was about 18 inches. The temple was about 90 feet long (the distance from home plate to first base), 30 feet wide (a first down in football), and 45 feet high (a four-story building). It had the same proportions as the tabernacle, only quadruple the size. Ryken notes, “Roughly speaking, it was about the size of a church sanctuary that would seat 250 people, but proportionately it was narrow and tall—the height of a four-story building” (1 Kings, 138).
Therefore, the temple was not on the scale of the Seven Wonders of the World. It wasn’t huge. Of course, it was placed up high on the mountain for people to see, and it was designed with amazing skill and expensive items, but what made it most impressive was its purpose. It was the place where God’s name dwelled (1 Kgs 8:19).
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, an image is provided below. We will describe some of these elements.
The Structure of the Temple (6:3-10,14-36)
We could highlight the temple construction in three parts: the exterior (vv. 3-10,14), the interior (vv. 15-28), and the furnishings (vv. 29-36).
Verse 7 records an interesting aspect of the exterior construction project: “The temple’s construction used finished stones cut at the quarry so that no hammer, chisel, or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built.” In chapter 5 Solomon deployed thousands of men to the hills to acquire stone for the temple, which they brought back to the city. These skilled workmen cut the material perfectly and then without a sound put each stone where it belonged. Remarkable skill! (I think I may institute this rule at my house!)
The off-site cutting and dressing of stones could stem from an earlier prohibition about the use of iron tools in constructing sacred buildings or altars (Deut 27:5; Josh 8:31). I think it has more to do with the idea of reverence. The prophet said, “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence” (Hab 2:20). These men were doing holy work in quiet reverence.
Regarding the important interior, the writer describes the elaborate adornments and boards. Then he describes the holy of holies or the most holy place (vv. 16ff). A three-part plan included the court, the holy place, and the “most holy place.” The most holy place was at the rear of the house, occupying some 30 feet, a third of the temple. Most of the Israelites would never see the things in it since it was an area reserved for the priests. The most holy place housed the ark of the covenant, where atonement was made and which served as God’s footstool! Hebrews mentions that it was also an earthly copy of God’s heavenly throne room (Heb 9:23-24).
Among the furnishings described, we see Solomon’s temple was covered in “pure gold” (6:20-22,28,30). This was extraordinary! It denotes the glory of God. Was this gold used the right way? The writer makes no judgments. No negative word exists, so we should probably just see this as an act done to honor the glory of Yahweh.
Two cherubim, each about 15 feet high and 15 feet wide, graced the most holy place (vv. 23-28). The wings of these magnificent creatures covered the room! They were like guardians of the ark, reminding us of Eden. They also magnified God’ majesty. The psalmist says God “sits enthroned above the cherubim” (Pss 99:1; 80:1; Isa 6:1-3)
The engraved “cherubim, palm trees, and flower blossoms” covered the walls and the inner doors (v. 29). Why? To signify God’s holiness? Yes. But there’s more. The temple was a “garden of Eden” like the tabernacle, in which God dwelled with His people. In the garden every tree was “pleasing in appearance and good for food” (Gen 2:9). But after our first parents sinned, God banished them from their home and placed cherubim east of Eden to “guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen 3:24). The doors are mentioned in 1 Kings 6:33-36. They also had carvings of cherubim and botanical designs—echoes of Eden. The doors allowed the priests into the presence of God but also kept others out of God’s presence. As for the most holy place, only the high priests could enter once a year on the Day of Atonement.
The temple pointed back to Genesis and to the tabernacle, but it also pointed ahead to the person and work of Christ. Jesus was “God with us” (Matt 1:23), who became flesh and “dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He became the new temple, allowing us, who were cut off from God, to have access to God through His once-and-for-all sacrifice (Heb 10:19-22; Eph 2:18). These parts of the temple also point ahead to the new heavens and the new earth in which paradise will be regained and God will forever dwell with His people (Rev 21:3).
The work done in the temple of God also reminds us of the work God is doing in our own lives. We are “living stones” that God is building into a “spiritual house” (1 Pet 2:5). God isn’t finished with us—His temple! How is God shaping us? God is chipping away what doesn’t belong and is fitting us together. He uses pain, suffering, trials, and temptation. He uses Bible reading and prayer to shape us as well. God is shaping us personally and communally. Paul says of God’s church that we are a “holy temple in the Lord,” and we are “built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph 2:21-22 ESV). God is sanctifying His church, His new temple (2 Cor 6:16; Col 3:16-17). There were great temples in places like Athens, and a great temple in Jerusalem, but now a greater temple is being built, namely God’s people.
Submit to the Word of God
1 Kings 6:11-13; 7:1-12
Solomon’s Heart (6:11-13)
Tucked in the middle of the details of the temple is God speaking to Solomon. God often interrupts us! He uses various circumstances to get our attention and fix our eyes on His Word.
This interruption highlights what Solomon was to remember in the midst of his work; that is, apart from God’s word, this was just another building project. If Israel doesn’t follow God’s word, then they won’t enjoy all the benefits the temple signifies. God says that Solomon will experience God’s blessing if he obeys the commands. These blessings include an everlasting dynasty and the presence of God.
Despite the importance of the temple, what God desires from His people isn’t a building but obedience. God was after Solomon’s heart. While God doesn’t tell him to stop building, He reminds Solomon what is most important: obedience to God’s word. External work is secondary to one’s interior life. The Israelites often failed to remember this fact (e.g., Jer 7:1-34). God was after their obedience, yet they often trusted in “the temple of the Lord” to keep them from judgment (Jer 7:4).
What God says here is basically what David previously said to Solomon (1 Kgs 2:4). Solomon knew this, but walking in the commands was another matter.
I was counseling someone close to me this week, and she was telling me of her husband who knows the Bible. He even text messages verses to others, but the life he is living consistently contradicts what he knows and says. His sin is leading the children to become jaded toward him because of such hypocrisy. He has knowledge but does not implement the truth. God wants us to be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (Jas 1:22).
Is there any hope? Yes. But as we have said, Solomon could not keep the “if statements” of the covenant. But a real Promise Keeper came—Jesus Christ. Ryken says, “[Jesus] kept all the ‘if’ commands of the law that open up all the ‘then’ promises of the gospel for everyone who believes in him” (1 Kings, 145). God promises that He will dwell in our hearts through faith (Eph 3:15) and that He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5), even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20). Because of Jesus, these promises are ours. Because of Jesus we can be forgiven for our law breaking, and because of Jesus we have power to obey Him faithfully.
Solomon’s House (7:1-12)
Solomon’s palace takes about twice as long to finish (13 years) as the temple. It consisted of five parts, the “House of the Forest of Lebanon,” the “hall of pillars,” the “Hall of Judgment,” and a palace for him and one for Pharaoh’s daughter. Verses 9-12 describe the expensive materials used.
The writer doesn’t tell us how we interpret this section. Do we take it positively? Was this an example of God’s blessing and a sign of God’s splendor like the temple? Or was this an example of Solomon’s self-indulgence and divided heart? Were Solomon’s priorities out of line? Positively, it seems like a good thing that he lived near the temple. He was close to God’s presence, and he used the palace to render justice (cf. Ps 72). Negatively, one could call this extravagant. The language of 6:38 and 7:1 highlights an emphatic contrast, perhaps suggesting that his priorities were out of order (Provan, 1 and 2 Kings, 69). We are probably safe in saying he was a man with mixed motives at best.
However you resolve the issue, we should remember that we must submit to God’s Word concerning wealth, home, and worship buildings. In the New Testament we read about an indulgence that is sinful (Luke 12:17-21) but an extravagance that at times is acceptable (Mark 14:3-9; Davis, 1 Kings, 64). As believers, we need to seek God’s Word for counsel regarding wealth and seek to use it wisely. I don’t think it’s wrong to spend money on a nice house or a place for worship, but we need to remember a few things. Regarding the temple, we should never compare a church building to Solomon’s temple. We are in a new era. We don’t need to spend millions upon millions of dollars on a place for corporate worship because we have our temple already in Jesus. Even if the need for a large place exists, it seems best to build simple structures. We aren’t called to compete with the new Dallas Cowboys stadium. We need to put the glory of God on display with our lives.
Regarding our homes, Christians should think about building, buying, or renting their homes with ministry in mind. Certainly, one can enjoy the fruit of work and be thankful for a nice place to raise a family, but think about how to host people when you think about your home. And even if Solomon isn’t demonstrating misplaced priorities in this text, it’s possible that you and I could do this. Our stuff isn’t more important than the kingdom. Christians should take care of their houses but shouldn’t idolize them. Be careful that culture doesn’t influence you in these matters. Once again, the call is to order our lives after God’s Word.
Remember also Matthew 6, where Jesus teaches that we shouldn’t worry about our most basic needs but rather trust our heavenly Father. He says, “Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow,” and “not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these” (Matt 6:28,29). Then He says, “If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith?” (Matt 6:30). You can trust God. You don’t need to have a massive home or great wealth, and you need not worry about your basic needs; instead you should simply “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt 6:33) and rest in the promise that God will take care of you.
Use Your Skills to the Glory of God
1 Kings 7:13-51
In these verses we read of the fixtures of the temple. A skilled craftsman, Hiram of Tyre, from the tribe of Naphtali (not the Hiram from chapter 5), fashions the gold and bronze items. Hiram’s work is reminiscent of Bezalel and Oholiab, who were skilled and gifted to construct the tabernacle. God gifts people in the arts and for craftsmanship.
Hiram makes four basic items and their accessories in 7:15-47. First, he makes a pair of massive pillars (vv. 15,21-22). One pillar was called “Jachin” (“He will establish”) and the other “Boaz” (“in Him is strength”). These names signified a message, much like a basketball point guard might call a play saying, “Five” (Davis, 1 Kings, 73). These single words conveyed much meaning. These pillars conveyed the firmness of God’s promise to establish David’s throne (cf. 2 Sam 7:12-16) and God’s mighty strength to accomplish it. David’s royal Psalm 21 begins and ends with this word “Boaz” (strength in English): “Lord, the king finds joy in Your strength. . . . Be exalted, Lord, in Your strength (Ps 21:1,13). It’s possible, maybe even probable, that this pillar was to remind people of this psalm. Therefore, standing in front of the temple proper were these two pillars, “He will establish” and “In Him is strength”—the promise of God and the power of God exalted.
What a great reminder to us today that our strength is in the Lord (Eph 6:10; 2 Tim 2:1) and that God’s kingdom through Christ, the greater Solomon, is established forever (Luke 1:32-33). The temple would fall, but as Luther wrote, “His kingdom is forever” (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”). We don’t need these pillars today, but what we do need is this message written on our hearts, as we seek to do God’s will in this life.
On top of each pillar stands an ornate capital (vv. 16-21). The capitals were decorated with rows of fruit and chains of flowers—more echoes of the garden. The pomegranates remind us of the priests who had pomegranates on the fringes of their garments. We also read of lily work, symbols of life and love. These also remind us of Eden.
Second, Hiram made a large holding tank called a “molten sea” or “cast metal reservoir” (7:23-26). It was designed to hold lots of water (about 11,000 gallons). He decorated it with gourds and made its lip in the shape of a lily. The stand consisted of 12 bronze oxen (perhaps a sign of the 12 tribes of Israel). It was for washing and maybe even conveys the idea of God ruling over the chaotic waters and all creation.
Third, Hiram made 10 water carts to hold smaller basins for other temple rituals (7:27-39). Each basin contained about 200 gallons of water. The stands had four wheels and were decorated with cherubim, lions, and palm trees (7:27-37).
“What is up with all this water?” you might ask. These basins demonstrate God’s concern for cleansing. The priests had to keep themselves ceremonially pure to do their work (2 Chr 4:6). They washed themselves and the animals.
Of course, God is still concerned with cleansing, but there are some differences. First, all believers are God’s priests now (1 Pet 2:5). We no longer need to offer sacrifices; instead we offer our praise, our prayers, and our proclamation of the good news to the world (Heb 13:15). Second, we have a better cleansing. Through Jesus we can be truly cleansed. There is an initial cleansing when we come to Christ (Titus 3:5), then a renewed cleansing that we need daily (1 John 1:7; 2 Cor 7:1). Positionally, we are holy as God’s people because of Jesus, but practically we need to experience fresh cleansing daily.
Fourth and finally, he made smaller “basins, the shovels, and the sprinkling basins” (vv. 40-47). Such elements were used for temple ceremonies. In verses 48-51 we read that Solomon completes the furnishings by having the equipment made. We read of “the gold altar” that was likely used for the burning of incense (cf. Exod 30:1-4), symbolizing the prayers of the people; “the gold table that the bread of Presence was placed on,” which represented God’s presence and provision; 10 lampstands (cf. Exod 25:31-40), which gave light, signified glory, and conveyed the idea of life through both the tree of life and the light (House, 1, 2 Kings, 135); and bowls, wick trimmers, sprinkling basins, ladles, fire pans, and more that are covered in pure gold. “So all the work King Solomon did in the Lord’s temple was completed” (v. 51). Then Solomon brings the items David had dedicated into the temple (2 Sam 8:11; 1 Chr 22:14).
Ralph Davis points out that 2 Chronicles (chs. 3–4) spends much less time on these details than the writer of Kings. You might wonder, “Why all this information? Who cares about pomegranates and basins and fire pans and pillars?” While many have little patience for this section, the author seems to relish it. He loves describing the liturgical elements (Davis, 1 Kings, 75–76). Why? Perhaps because he thinks one should use their technical mind and artistic skills to the glory of God. Hiram, with his artistic skill, like the men who made the worship elements for the tabernacle, made beautiful things for God’s temple.
What about you? Are you using your God-given gifts to create things for the glory of your Creator? That is what you were made to do. Whether you are an artist, a musician, a writer, a cook, a plumber, a teacher, an athlete, a tech guru, a doctor, or something else, use your gifts for God’s glory and the good of others.
The Presbyterian missionary Elizabeth Freeman and her husband John were pioneer missionaries to India. After only seven years they were seized in a Muslim uprising and shot in cold blood. Earlier Elizabeth had written these words to one of her nieces:
I hope you will be a missionary wherever your lot is cast, and as long as God spares your life; for it makes but little difference after all where we spend these few fleeting years, if they are only spent for the glory of God. Be assured there isn’t anything else worth living for. (Ryken, 1 Kings, 198)
Indeed. Be assured! Nothing is worth living for except the glory of God. And on top of this grand purpose, we are given the presence of God to carry out the mission of God.
Pour Out Your Heart to God
1 Kings 8:1-66
In chapter 8, after the ark is brought into the temple, Solomon offers up a magnificent prayer to God. The structure of chapter 8 seems to have a great emphasis on verses 22-53. Following Porten and Davis, consider this scheme:
Celebration and Sacrifice (vv. 1-13)
Blessing (vv. 14-21)
Prayer of Dedication (vv. 22-53)
Blessing (vv. 54-61)
Celebration and Sacrifice (vv. 62-66)
Following this chiastic structure, one can see that what comes in the middle of the sandwich is of great importance (Davis, 1 Kings, 80; see also Leithart, 1 and 2 Kings, for a possible structure of 1:1–12:24 that places the section we are considering, 1 Kings 6:1–9:9, at the center of the narrative of Solomon). We can divide this prayer, then, into three parts: celebration and sacrifice (vv. 1-13,62-66); blessing (vv. 12-21,54-61); and prayer of dedication—a sevenfold petition (vv. 22-53). The first and last parts highlight God’s mystery and clarity. The second part exults in God’s faithfulness, and the second blessing includes a benedictory prayer. The third part highlights God’s forgiveness. With these attributes of God in mind, let us consider the need to pray to this God.
Celebration and Sacrifice (8:1-13,62-66)
This chapter begins with Solomon bringing the ark, this great symbol of God’s presence, into the temple (vv. 1-3). Everyone involved in the process offers sacrifices in view of personal and national sin and in praise to the God who forgives and provides (vv. 4-6). We see here the holiness of God and the necessity of blood in order to enter into His presence.
In verses 6-9 the ark reaches its destination: the most holy place. We are given a description of the massive poles and of the contents of the ark: nothing “except the two stone tablets that Moses had put there at Horeb” (v. 9). God’s Word and God’s presence are thus linked together.
Then we see the amazing results. A cloud fills the house and the priests “were not able to continue ministering” because of the cloud (v. 11). Why? The cloud represented God’s glory. The writer says, “The glory of the Lord filled the temple” (v. 11). This same wonder happened in the tabernacle in Exodus 40:34-35. The disciples also experienced an awesome glory cloud at the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2-3). One day we will see glory for ourselves, as Jesus prayed in John 17:24.
As we see throughout chapter 8, God’s attributes are mysteriously and majestically joined together (Davis, 1 Kings, 79–93). Here, we see mystery and clarity joined together. God is on the one hand hidden and on the other hand revealed. The cloud reveals His glory and conceals His glory (cf. Pss 18:11; 97:2). His clarity is revealed by what is in the ark: His Word. His Word is clear. He has clearly taught us His ways. The cloud points to His obscurity—we can’t know everything about Him (though we have sufficient knowledge to know Him). Davis says, “He satisfies your need for clarity but not your passion for curiosity” (Davis, 1 Kings, 82).
You can know God today. He has made Himself known in His Word and in His Son. But when you come to know Jesus, you realize that God is inexhaustible. The psalmist said, “His greatness is unsearchable” (Ps 145:3). You were created to know this God and to know Him more and more.
Of course, these sacrifices point to how we are reconciled to this God. The animal sacrifices provided temporary atonement but ultimately couldn’t completely satisfy God’s wrath against sin. We needed a perfect sacrifice, and we have it in the Lamb of God. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can celebrate. Because of His sacrifice, the only thing left to offer is our lives (Rom 12:1-2).
In verses 12-13 Solomon responds in awe and underscores the mystery of God’s transcendence and immanence. God dwells in thick darkness (transcendence, hiddenness) but is also immanent (dwelling among His people in the “exalted house”). May we too stand in awe of His glory.
At the end of the chapter, more sacrifices are made (vv. 62-64); then a great feast is held for seven days. The people were full of joy and gladness (vv. 65-66). In this we see another “joining together,” except this time it isn’t a joining together of God’s attributes but rather our response to His attributes: fear and festivity. God is to be feared; sacrifice is required. God is also to be enjoyed; celebration should exist among God’s delivered people.
After the initial celebration and sacrifice, Solomon turns his attention to speak to the people. He is speaking about God in a worshipful manner. He is exulting in God’s faithfulness. He ties together God’s covenant to David and the exodus, both of which highlight God’s faithfulness (vv. 15-16). Next he reflects on God’s words to David, that David’s son would build a house (vv. 17-19). This also highlights the faithfulness of God. Finally, Solomon exults in God’s choice of him to build the temple (vv. 20-21).
What about you? Do you exult, rejoice, and delight in God’s faithfulness? If not, then I would recommend you do what Solomon is doing here: consider the word of God. Consider how God has kept His promises.
Look at the second blessing in verses 54-61. Solomon again stretches out his hands toward heaven (v. 54; cf. v. 22). Only this time he isn’t standing but kneeling. Perhaps he began standing but poured out his heart with such passion that he ended up on the ground.
Again he says, “May the Lord be praised!” (v. 56; cf. v. 15). He praises God for His faithfulness. He says, “Not one of all the good promises He made through His servant Moses has failed” (v. 56; cf. 6:1; 8:16). What a statement! Not one word of God has ever failed, and not one word of God ever will fail! You can trust in His word forever!
Then the praise turns into a three-part benedictory prayer. First, he encourages the people to recognize their need for God’s presence. He says, “May the Lord our God be with us as He was with our ancestors” (v. 57). Solomon recognizes that just as God was with Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, and others, he and his subjects also needed His presence.
Second, he prays that God would “incline our hearts to him” (v. 58 ESV). Solomon pleads with God that the people may love God’s word and do His will. We should pray this! “Incline our hearts to him.” What does this mean? One theologian said, “Love is inclination” (Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 208). That is, whatever we are inclined to do is what we love the most. This is a prayer for God to work in our wills so that we don’t love anything more than Him, so that we are totally devoted to Him. The psalmist prayed, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain” (Ps 119:36 ESV).
This may be a good place to think about true conversion. Conversion is the change of affections. Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). In conversion our wills are inclined to something new. When some people hear the gospel, they think, “Oh, I’ve tried that, and it didn’t work.” Often they’ve only performed a religious ritual but have never had their affections changed. Others say they’re believers, but they live a double life because they have never been changed. Christianity is about internal transformation. A Christian is one who loves Christ, and to love Him our hearts must be inclined to Him. Now, as Christians, every day we are praying that God would incline our hearts to Him so that we may do His will.
Third, he pleads with God to uphold Israel’s cause (vv. 59-61). Notice the reason: “That all the peoples of the earth may know that Yahweh is God. There is no other!” (v. 60). Solomon desires for the nations to know the true and living God. God isn’t a tribal deity exclusive to Israel but the only living God who deserves the worship of all nations (vv. 41-43).
Solomon concludes with a charge to Israel to be faithful (cf. Josh 24:14). Every generation has this charge to be faithful to the God who is always faithful to His people.
Sevenfold Petition (8:22-53)
The prayer Solomon offers is important to understanding Kings. It’s basically a summary of every prayer that would be prayed in the temple in the future (Spurgeon, “Solomon’s Plea”), organized with seven petitions, perhaps to signify perfection. These petitions begin in verse 31.
Leading up to these petitions, Solomon praises God for His uniqueness. God is the only God. God is the faithful, redeeming, covenant-keeping God (vv. 23-26). Verses 27-30 transition into the seven petitions. Solomon reminds us that God isn’t confined to a building (Acts 17:24-25). Indeed, the highest of heavens cannot contain Him. Yet God has chosen to make His “name” dwell in the temple (vv. 18,19,20). God is high and lofty, but He hears the prayers of the meek and lowly (Isa 66:1-2).
The listening nature of God is noted in the next verse and then appears throughout the following petitions. Notice the phrase “hear in heaven” (vv. 32,34,36,39,43,45,49). Solomon understands that the temple was to be a place to petition God, and He would hear there, but He was not confined there. God’s “hearing” is done in heaven.
On this side of the cross, we have no temple; we have something better, namely, Jesus. Through Him we can pray anytime, anywhere, as Jesus told the woman at the well (John 4:21-24). And we know God hears the prayers of His people. “Call to Me and I will answer you” (Jer 33:3; cf. Ps 91:15; Jer 29:12). What is more, we have a better Mediator than Solomon. Jesus Christ our King is our eternal Intercessor (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25), and the Holy Spirit dwells within us, allowing us to commune with God (Eph 2:18). Pour out your heart to this transcendent and immanent God.
Since God hears the prayers of His people, what should they pray? The following seven petitions highlight both the severity and the mercy of God (vv. 31-53). Five of these petitions—the first four and the last one (vv. 31,33-34,35-36,38-39,46ff) address sin situations. Consequently, a prayer for forgiveness is offered throughout (vv. 30,34,36,39,50). One of the main purposes of the temple is forgiveness. The other two petitions will be noted below. Let’s ponder these seven petitions. (I’m indebted to Ryken, 1 Kings, 224–36, for the following headings.)
Petition 1: A prayer for justice (vv. 31-32). The first petition concerns a legal case where insufficient evidence makes it difficult to render a verdict. God is called on to condemn the guilty and clear the innocent. Even though Solomon was wise, he couldn’t possibly rightly judge all things (cf. Exod 22:9). Solomon acknowledges God’s righteousness and justice. God is the one who “judges impartially” (1 Pet 1:17). We should also pray for justice to be done and for God to grant us wisdom when we are called on to execute justice.
Petition 2: A prayer for rescue (vv. 33-34). The second petition concerns a defeat in battle because of Israel’s sin and their need for rescue and return. Israel often lost battles because of their previous sin (Josh 7:1-5; 1 Sam 4:1-11). Solomon understood Israel’s human nature and thus prayed for God to forgive them and bring them back to the land.
Petition 3: A prayer for provision (vv. 35-36). Sometimes the sin of God’s people would bring about problems with the land (Deut 11:13-17). This actually happens later in 1 Kings in the days of King Ahab. The people turn away, and there is no rain for three years (1 Kgs 17:1; Jas 5:17). After Elijah overcomes the prophets of Baal and prays for rain, God provides for His people (1 Kgs 18:41-45; Jas 5:17-18).
Petition 4: A prayer for deliverance (vv. 37-40). This prayer sounds similar to the third. Solomon lists a host of disasters that might befall the people because of their sin (v. 37). Later we will read of Hezekiah stretching out his hands in prayer for deliverance when the nation of Assyria, led by Sennacherib, besieges Jerusalem (2 Kgs 18–19). Hezekiah prays for deliverance from this threat (2 Kgs 19:14-19), and God hears his plea and answers him (2 Kgs 19:20,32-36).
We shouldn’t always make a one-to-one correlation between disasters and God’s judgment. Our nation isn’t in a covenant the way the nation of Israel was. However, we need to remember that God calls us to obedience, and when we fail, there are consequences (and those consequences could be in the form of disasters, if God so chooses). When we fail, we need to repent.
We also need to remember the simple truth that God hears us when we pray. Elijah and Hezekiah illustrate this truth. James encouraged his people to pray, reminding them that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” and he prayed fervently and God acted (Jas 5:17-18).
Petition 5: A prayer for outsiders (vv. 41-43). Solomon expresses a desire for the nations to know and worship the God of Israel. He mentions the “mighty hand” and “outstretched arm” of God, signifying God’s salvation (Deut 4:34; 5:15). Here we are reminded that God chose Israel that they might be a blessing to the nations (Gen 12:1-3). The temple was designed to be a “house of prayer for all peoples” (Isa 2:3; 56:7; Mark 11:17). In the Gospels we read about the temple being used as a place for nationalistic pride, warfare, and economic gain (John 2:13-17). It was never intended for that purpose.
Many examples of outsiders being drawn to Israel’s God appear in the Old Testament. One of them is Ruth. Others appear right here in the book of Kings, like the queen of Sheba and the widow of Zarephath. We also read of Naaman, who comes to Israel to be healed of leprosy after an Israelite slave girl testifies of God’s power. Naaman confesses, “I know there’s no God in the whole world except in Israel” (2 Kgs 5:15). In the New Testament many outsiders are brought to faith, such as the centurion and Cornelius (Matt 8:5-13; Acts 10–11).
Many people don’t understand that God desires the salvation of all nations. Some wrongly categorize Christianity as a “Western religion.” In some bookstores it’s placed under such a heading. The fact is, many Eastern countries are seeing more explosive growth in the church than the West. The gospel is for the nations. The promise to Abraham was about the nations. Here, at the steps of the temple, we find a prayer for the nations. In Revelation we see the culmination of this passion. So if people ask you, “Where did you get your passion for the nations?” you should simply say, “I read the Bible.” For if you take the nations out of the Bible, you leave only the table of contents and the maps!
Are you praying for outsiders to come to know Jesus? Are you joining God in this mission to see outsiders come to faith in Jesus? A difference to note is that in the Old Testament the nations mainly came into Jerusalem, but in the New Testament the Christians were together in Jerusalem at Pentecost, but then the mission went out from Jerusalem. We are to go into the world to show and to tell the gospel.
Petition 6: A prayer for victory (vv. 44-45). Like the previous petition this petition is about war. However, this prayer is about victory in God’s cause. In 2 Chronicles 20 the Moabites and Ammonites come against King Jehoshaphat and Judah. Jehoshaphat gathers everyone and they seek the Lord’s intervention. He alludes to 1 Kings 8, and they pray, “For we are powerless” and “we do not know what to do, but we look to You” (2 Chr 20:12). Miraculously, God intervened and delivered His people. Of course we are in a different kind of battle now, but we need to pray for God’s help to gain victory against our enemies (Eph 6:10-20).
Petition 7: A prayer for restoration (vv. 46-53). Here we find the fifth request for forgiveness. This is a “worst case scenario” (Davis, 1 Kings, 89). The people of God are going into exile because of their sin. This is exactly where the book of Kings is headed. A second exodus will be needed because of their sin. Solomon’s prayer is based in reality. He says in verse 46, “There is no one who does not sin.” Yet he understands that restoration and grace are possible if the people plead for it. We find prayers like this during Israel’s exile. Daniel was exiled in Babylon and prayed for the restoration of Israel (Dan 6:10; cf. 9:3-19). Daniel’s prayer brought an answer to Solomon’s prayer. God did forgive the people and bring them back to the land.
We too need to be reminded that our greatest problem is a sin problem. But we have great hope in Christ. He is the sin-bearing Savior, the sin-forgiving Savior. Due to the nature of sin, we need constantly to be repenting of sin and seeking cleansing from our merciful God. Our culture doesn’t want to believe anything is a sin, and in their denial they are blinded to their need for the One who came to save His people from their sins.
Looking back over this section on the temple construction and temple dedication, we’re reminded of some important truths:
- Treasure the promises of God. He redeems. He saves.
- Marvel at the holiness of God. Worship in the splendor of His holiness.
- Submit to the Word of God. God is after the heart, not just what you build.
- Use your skills to the glory of God. All of your talents should be used for the good of the kingdom.
- Pour out your heart to God. Praise God. Bless God. Celebrate the goodness of God. Pray for justice, rescue, provision, deliverance, outsiders, victory, and restoration.
Listen to the Warning from God
1 Kings 9:1-9
We aren’t done! The temple narrative isn’t finished! After this, the writer says, the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time. He first appeared at Gibeon, where He blessed Solomon with wisdom. Such wisdom was used for the building of the temple. God now assures Solomon that His name will dwell there and that He will hear prayer.
However, this appearance comes with a warning (vv. 4-9). There is a condition for continued blessing: obedience. The particular issue mentioned is idolatry. God says if they worship false gods, then Israel will become a byword and a proverb and the temple will become a pile of ruins. Provan notes, “The ‘if’ of verse 6 cannot in reality be anything other than a ‘when’ (8:46)” (1 and 2 Kings, 83). The people will chase other gods, and Israel will be carried away. He adds, “The temple is no sooner built than we hear of its inevitable end” (ibid.).
Thus, we are left with a focus on Solomon’s heart. That is a good place for us to end. The warning to the Hebrews comes to mind: “Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God” (Heb 3:12).
Everyone will worship something or someone. What or whom do you worship? Let us remember that someone greater than Solomon is here. Jesus has come to show us the glory of God. He never sinned or fell short of the glory of God. He lived a perfectly righteous life and died a substitutionary death. He conquered the grave, and now we need to submit our lives to this King. Don’t give your heart to another lover. Instead, see in Christ all that you need. In Him there is freedom, rest, joy, power for holiness, and access to God in prayer. Let His peace rule in your heart (Col 3:15). Look to the Savior-King-Temple who outshines all the beauties of this world. Behold “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6) with the eyes of faith and be changed by the Spirit of God.
- Why is the temple significant in the life of the Israelites?
- What does the temple communicate about God’s character?
- Are the intricate details of the temple structure important? Why or why not?
- Why is it important that God’s people walk in holiness?
- Are holiness and God’s presence related in any way?
- Hiram, along with Solomon, also had wisdom. Was it different from Solomon’s wisdom? How so?
- How does God continue to give His people wisdom today?
- How might God’s people use wisdom to glorify the Lord?
- Name some of the characteristics of God found in Solomon’s prayer (8:22-53).
- How does God respond to Solomon’s prayer?