1 Kings 8 Study Notes


8:1-9:9 This dedication was rooted in covenant history, and it was a reprise of many points of covenant theology. The specific offenses mentioned in Solomon’s great prayer reflected the atmosphere, if not the very words, of Lv 26. On the other hand, much of the terminology also reflects particularly Deuteronomic sources. The prayer also focuses on more recent covenant history, especially the recently chosen dynasty, the dynasty’s city, and the new permanent home for God’s presence with his people.

8:1 Solomon here operated through traditional tribal and clan structures. Either his royal bureaucracy was not yet developed or he deferred to the traditional structures as a courtesy. Moving the ark from David’s private shrine on Mount Zion to the new national temple in Jerusalem restored the ark to its role as a national religious symbol.

8:2 All Israel was represented by these traditional leaders. Though the phrase the men here refers to people of both genders, to translate it in that way would be an acculturation rather than a translation. This assembly happened in Ethanim (aka Tishri, the seventh month, September-October), the month of the great Day of Atonement. The regular festival of this month was the Festival of Harvest (Ex 23:16)—Shelters or Tabernacles—that was celebrated about a week after the Day of Atonement.

8:3-4 After the difficult lesson David learned concerning the movement of the ark (2Sm 6:7-8), all the transporting was implemented in the proper manner.

8:5 These extensive sacrifices were suitable for a pivotal point in covenant history.

8:6-7 The ark’s place was under the wings of the great cherubim whose wings extended across the width of the inner sanctuary. Thus symbolically, the ark was restored to its rightful place under the symbols of God’s glory and the agencies that protected that glory (see note at 6:23-28).

8:8-9 The poles had to remain since they could not be removed from the gold rings (Ex 25:15). The note that they are still there today means that the author of Kings used sources that were written before the destruction of the Lord’s house in 586 BC (see 9:13,21; 10:12; 12:19; 2Kg 2:22; 8:22; 10:27; 14:7; 16:6; 17:23,34,41). Of the three original contents of the ark, the sample of manna and Aaron’s rod had been lost or decayed so that only the stone tablets of the law remained (Ex 16:32-34; Nm 17:10-11). These highlighted the covenant relationship between the Israelites and God.

8:10-11 God’s impenetrable and unbearable glory filled the new sanctuary. We must go to 2Ch 7:1 to get any indication of a visible, supernatural descent of this glory (see Lv 9:24).

8:12-13 This brief introduction states several significant points of history and covenant theology. First, God showed himself in overwhelming glory and total darkness. Both prevented human eyes from seeing God. Then, the exalted temple was to be God’s dwelling despite the fact that neither earth nor heaven could contain God. Therefore, only the name (v. 18) of God dwelt in the house. This tension recognizes that nothing can contain God, but God can, nevertheless, be present in some special way. Several schools of scholarship see God’s name as reflective of God’s reputation or fame. This suggests that one implication of a dwelling place for God’s name was that the fame—the knowledge of God’s great works—would go forth from that dwelling.

8:14 This scene acted out the role of the Davidic dynasty as the spiritual representative of the people. Solomon first stood before God speaking for the people. Then he turned from facing God to bless the entire congregation.

8:15 God practiced covenant faithfulness in keeping his promises to David.

8:16-18 Four major steps in advancing God’s covenant agenda are described here. (1) By implication, God had a dwelling place among his people. (2) This dwelling was the temple built by the Davidic dynasty. (3) It was in the city chosen, providentially, by David. (4) This was the dynasty chosen by God. These ideas added a sense of finality to choosing the Davidic dynasty and building the Lord’s house. Ps 78 (esp. vv. 65-72) expresses the climactic significance of the Davidic dynasty in this program.

8:19-20 Solomon identified himself as the Davidic agent who had brought this program to completion. Here, the thematic spotlight was also on God’s reliability and God’s keeping what he promised.

8:21 The sanctuary was preeminently a place for the ark, which represented not only God’s presence but also his covenant with Israel.

8:22 Solomon then turned around again, this time to face God as the representative of the people. At some point (see v. 54), Solomon kneeled with his hands held upwards for this prayer.

8:23-24 Solomon stated more foundational points of covenant theology. The God of the Hebrews is unique. There is no God like the Lord, God of Israel. Uniquely, he is a covenant-keeping God. That is, he observes (Hb berith chesed) covenant faithfulness, here translated as gracious covenant. Covenant faithfulness was a mutual responsibility for both parties.

8:25 God’s covenant faithfulness guaranteed the permanency of the Davidic dynasty—but only if Solomon’s sons take care to walk before the Lord.

8:26 Keeping his covenant promises expressed God’s (Hb) chesed. Solomon asked that this gracious faithfulness would continue.

8:27-30 After acknowledging that this house could not contain God, Solomon stated the major theme of this prayer: that God would confirm his covenant by being attentive to the prayer of his people, directed to this temple for the following concerns. This attentiveness would lead to forgiveness and restoration, recurrent themes in the remainder of this prayer. In effect, this prayer argued that God’s covenant response to prayer, directed to this house, guaranteed God’s interest in all aspects of Israel’s life.

8:31-32 Here begins a series of seven situations, all but one beginning with when, marked by the phrase may you hear in heaven (vv. 31-32,33-34,35-36,37-40,41-43,44-45,46-53). When uncorroborated testimony must be supported by a solemn oath, the oath should be taken at this temple. In broad terms God would hear prayer to validate an honest oath and to maintain justice and integrity.

8:33-34 God would hear when the Israelites were defeated in war. In Solomon’s hour of greatness, this prayer acknowledged that sin could produce defeat.

8:35-50 The following statements about sin, disaster, and restoration are not repetitious, stereotypical formulae. There is much freedom and creativity in composing the statements. Yet certain elements seem to recur. The whole process can involve: (1) sinning; (2) repentance; (3) acknowledgement of truth (either as “confessing” truth, as stating the truth in praise, or as stating the truth in thanks); (4) prayer; (5) seeking favor; (6) God’s hearing; (7) forgiveness; and (8) restoration.

8:37-40 Other natural disasters also were occasions for praying to God. The Lord would hear, forgive, and reward in accordance with their (the worshiper’s) ways. This would result in the fear of God among his people. “Fear” is a rich word that includes a multitude of concepts, including formal worship of God, actual fear of God, and reverence for God.

8:41-43 Solomon states the theology of missions that is implicit in God’s great works of witness. The foreigner should hear of God’s works and then pray toward the temple to God. And God would hear that foreigner’s prayer. The popular modern Christian misunderstanding that the OT was purely a Hebrew document, written by and for Hebrews alone, can easily miss this point. The intended result of OT revelation was the spread of the knowledge of God to all peoples of earth.

8:44-45 Note the army of Israel is called your people, and they will go where you send them.

8:46 Here begins the climactic situation of the seven (vv. 46-53). Solomon here is praying out of Lv 26:40-45 and Dt 30:1-10. Sin produces defeat in war and captivity. This truth could point to the occasional historical defeats and partial captivities of God’s people, but it could also point to the two great national deportations of the people.

8:47-50 Verses 47-48 describe the repentance of the people (see Dn 6:10). Then 1Kg 8:49-50 describe the Lord’s response.

8:51-53 Solomon then looked to the historical basis for the covenant relationship between God and his people, particularly that he had delivered them from Egypt.

8:54-56 In his role as the spiritual representative of the people, Solomon had prayed in a posture of humble obeisance before God. This role as the spiritual intermediary between the people and God continued when Solomon stood, turned to the people, and blessed them by announcing, Blessed be the Lord!

8:57-59 Solomon prayed for God’s presence with his people, for he knew that God’s active participation (causes us to be devoted) was required to keep the people faithful to their covenant with God. The climactic location (“the altar of the Lord,” v. 54) of this request tangibly represented God’s ongoing presence among his people.

8:60-61 The result of this faithfulness brings us again to the major theme of OT missions—that all the peoples of the earth know that the Lord is God. With these words, Solomon made a worldwide missions proclamation.

8:62-63 The large number of offerings, especially the fellowship offerings eaten by the worshipers, turned this into a huge, state-funded, national festival.

8:64 Everything that became a part of official worship had to be ritually consecrated.

8:65-66 This, and perhaps similar great national festivals, involved the entire empire (defined by its ideal bounds) from the entrance of Hamath on the north to the Brook of Egypt on the south. Extrabiblical documents confirm that the Brook of Egypt was the Wadi Arish or was near this wadi.