1 Kings 6 Study Notes
6:1-38 There are three problems in understanding the technical language in this chapter and parts of the next. (1) The original readers and hearers had background knowledge that we do not; thus, the author could presume a certain amount of knowledge on their part. (2) Some issues touched on here are better covered in 2 Chronicles. (3) Some issues raised here are better left to more detailed reference works devoted to architectural details of the Lord’s house.
6:1 Second Ch 3:2 dates this operation by the precise day in Solomon’s reign. By contrast, 1 Kings dates it by its relationship to another great event in covenant history—the exodus from Egypt. The earlier event launched Hebrew life as a nation, and this event began Hebrew life with a permanent dwelling for God. The figure of 480 years implies a fifteenth-century exodus (ca 1440 BC). Those who argue for a thirteenth-century exodus take this figure as representing twelve generations reflecting a generous life expectancy for that day (12 x 40 = 480). Allowing for overlapping generations, the actual length could then have been something like 12 x 25, or three hundred years. Many of the other figures in 1 and 2 Kings are confirmed remarkably well by historical research. The month Ziv (Iyyar), the second month of the religious calendar, overlaps with our modern April and May.
6:2-10 These verses give the basic plan for the sanctuary. For comparison, the tabernacle itself (holy place and holy of holies) was forty-five feet long and fifteen feet wide.
6:3 The word portico (Hb ’ulam) has two different meanings, translated “hall of pillars” and “canopy with pillars” in 7:6. From those examples, this portico also might have been a covered hall or entrance with columns, fifteen feet by thirty feet by thirty feet (2Ch 3:4). Most reconstructions of the temple show a covered entry without columns.
6:5-6 These three levels of storage rooms surrounding the temple on the outside are omitted in Chronicles. The lower stories were narrower than the upper stories. The lowest ceiling beams pierced the outer wall of the storage room at the end away from the temple and rested on a ledge, 11/2 feet wide, on the end toward the temple. This ledge was 3 feet from the wall of the temple. The second story beams pierced the same outer wall, but rested on another ledge, 1½ feet wide, that was 11/2 feet from the wall. The third story beams pierced the same outer wall but rested on a 11/2 foot ledge that touched the wall itself but did not pierce it.
6:7 Cutting the stones to exact measure off-site and then putting them in place without further dressing with iron tools required great skill. This wording here permits a final polishing that smoothed the surfaces and equalized the surfaces at the joints between the stones.
6:8 The Hebrew language of this verse is obscure. In the LXX it is said that the bottom story was accessed through a door on the right, or south (see note at 7:39), side of the structure. With only one door, access to other stories would have been by an interior doorway and stairway, of which we have no exact information. The Hebrew text suggests an external stair or ladder to the second story instead of the outer door mentioned above.
6:10 The stories of the outer rooms were 71/4 feet high, apparently including the thickness of the ceilings. Thus the total height of the three stories of outer rooms was just under 22 feet, about half the height of the temple itself.
6:11-13 God blessed the temple with the promise that he would dwell among the Israelites if they kept his commandments.
6:14-15 The interior walls were paneled with cedar, while the flooring was cypress wood, probably Phoenician juniper or some other evergreen. The Chronicles’s account (2Ch 3:5) seems to use the word “cypress” as a general name for both cedar and cypress.
6:16-17 The inner sanctuary of the temple, the most holy place, was also paneled with cedar and separated from the rest of the temple by a cedar wall. This produced the common three-part plan: (1) the court, (2) the sanctuary (the holy place), and (3) the inner sanctuary (the most holy place or the holy of holies).
6:19-21 The height of the inner sanctuary was only thirty feet, leaving about fifteen feet between its top and the ceiling of the temple. The stone was completely covered (v. 18). However, the pure gold overlay in v. 21 and in 2Ch 3:7 does not necessarily demand that the entire surface was overlaid with gold. Like the ivory inlay in ivory beds (Am 6:4) or ivory palaces (Ps 45:8), this could refer to an aesthetically selective usage of gold overlay. First Kg 6:35 (“applied evenly”) may reveal the nature of this gold overlay. The best way to achieve such an even covering was to use gold that had been hammered into thin foil and then gently hammered onto selected surfaces until it adhered to those surfaces. Both the precious gold and the fine, expensive cedar wood showed God’s glory.
6:22 Here, in agreement with the LXX, the altar of incense was the altar that belongs to the inner sanctuary. This indicated a new location of the altar of incense. In the tabernacle it was in the holy place just outside the veil. Here it was in the inner sanctuary itself (Heb 9:3-4). However, the Hebrew language could be taken as ambiguous: “The altar that is to/for the . . .”
6:23-28 If the craftsmanship was typical for the time, the two larger cherubim were made of pieces of olive wood fastened together, probably glued, then carved, and then covered with gold, probably hammered gold foil (see note at vv. 19-21). Some suggest that the cherubim formed the throne of God. In the apocalyptic visions, similar beings seem to represent the glory of God. In pagan contexts, they were construed as supernatural protectors of kings and gods.
6:30 Even the floor was decorated or overlaid . . . with gold, but probably by a harder gold alloy.
6:34 This verse could describe each of the sanctuary doors as involving two hinged panels, perhaps like modern bifold doors.
6:36 The courtyard was enclosed by a wall that included cedar beams. This technique was often used to bind stone walls together for earthquake protection.
6:37-38 The temple was completed in the month of Bul, the eighth month of the Canaanite calendar (our modern October-November).