I. The Reign of Solomon (2 Chronicles 1:1–9:31)

The book of 2 Chronicles continues the story of the Davidic monarchy in the southern kingdom of Judah following David’s death. It begins with the reign of Solomon (starting about 970 BC) and ends with the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah before the nation’s descent into captivity in Babylon in 587–586 BC. This book omits any mention of the northern nation of Israel’s kings during the time of the two kingdoms. Clearly, the chronicler’s purpose was to focus on David’s descendants, the messianic line.

6:1-11 Chapter 6 is an account of Solomon’s blessing of the people and dedication prayer for the exalted temple where the Lord would dwell (6:1-2). After he blessed the entire congregation (6:3), the king praised the Lord for fulfilling his promise to David (6:3-4) to choose Jerusalem as the city for his own name (6:6). While God had not let David build the temple, he had promised this honor to his son (6:7-9). What he had promised, then, had now been fulfilled (6:10).

6:12-17 Solomon stood before the altar and knelt down on a specially made bronze platform to pray (6:12-13). The king first praised the Lord who keeps his gracious covenant with his people (6:14). Then, he again acknowledged that God had kept his promise to David: his son was not only on the throne, but also had built the temple (6:15). So, Solomon prayed God would continue to remain faithful, never failing to provide a son of David to sit on the throne (6:16-17).

The interesting thing is that God’s promise to David and his successors could only be enjoyed by those kings who adhered to the Lord. Notice God’s words in verse 16: If only your sons guard their way to walk in my Law (6:16). As the rest of 2 Chronicles makes clear, many of David’s heirs failed at this and proved unworthy of the promise’s blessing. But, God’s promises can never fail. One day the perfect and divine Son of David, Jesus Christ, will reign on David’s throne forever (see Luke 1:32-33).

6:18-21 Here, we find one of the greatest expressions of God’s transcendence in Scripture: Even heaven, the highest heaven, cannot contain you, much less this temple I have built (6:18). God is transcendent. In other words, he is independent of the universe. He is our Creator and sustainer. So, how can humans expect him to dwell in a temple?

The answer is found in the reality that ours is not a God who is aloof from his creation and takes no interest in human affairs. He is not only transcendent, he is also immanent—that is, he is present within his creation while remaining distinct from it. And, this is what Solomon knew. That’s why he prayed! He asked God to listen and hear him, so that his eyes would watch over the temple (6:19-20). And, because our big, transcendent God is also close to us, Solomon also asked him to forgive his people when they cried out to him (6:21).

6:22-42 With praises and requests as a backdrop, Solomon prayed in great detail (6:22-39) for God’s mercy on Israel when the people committed any number of wrongs and returned to the Lord in repentance, seeking forgiveness. This catalog of offenses is punctuated by variations on this recurring prayer: may you hear in heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel (6:25; see also 3:23, 27, 30, 33, 39). The king then concluded his prayer the way it had begun, with the plea that God would remember his servant David (6:42).

7:1-3 The close of Solomon’s prayer brought down the consuming fire of God from heaven on the sacrifices, and his glory cloud filled the temple (7:1). All the Israelites could do was bow down with their faces to the ground in awe and godly fear (7:3).

As glorious as the coming of God’s glory was on that day, Ezekiel the prophet would witness the tragic departure of the glory cloud generations later during a time of great apostasy on the part of Judah (see Ezek 10:18). But, importantly, in Ezekiel’s vision of a new temple, he saw the glory of God returning (see Ezek 43:4-5).

The arrival and departure of God’s glory in his house points to an important lesson for modern Christians. For Israel, the way things worked in society was determined by the way things worked, or did not work, in the temple. So, in the event that God left the temple, the problems showed up in the streets. Yet, when God returned his manifest presence to the temple, the healing showed up in the streets, as well. God’s first concern in his kingdom agenda should be ours. We, however, get all worked up about what is happening, or going to happen, in the White House or the Supreme Court without giving much thought to what is happening, or not happening, in God’s church. We must understand that if God doesn’t see the church getting things right, it doesn’t matter whom we elect to the White House. Both judgment and healing start with the household of God. I believe the reason for our cultural demise is spiritual. And, if a problem is spiritual, its cure must be spiritual. Pursing right relationship with God is our solution.

7:4-7 Solomon offered so many sacrifices that the bronze altar couldn’t accommodate them all! So, the courtyard of the temple was consecrated, and the rest of the offerings were made there.

7:8-11 For the next week, Israel celebrated the temple’s dedication followed by still another week of observing the Festival of Booths (7:8-9). Then, finally, Solomon sent everyone away with happy hearts for the goodness the Lord had done (7:10). Everything that had entered Solomon’s heart to do for the Lord’s temple . . . succeeded (7:11).

7:12-16 God heard Solomon’s prayer (7:12), which indicates that there’s always hope if God’s people will fall on their knees and pray as the people did at the dedication of Solomon’s temple. We need not merely talk about prayer; we must actually pray. And, when we do, we may be able to move the hand of God to bring restoration. Consider God’s promise to Solomon: If I shut the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on my people, and my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land (7:13-14).

In this hallmark passage, God calls his people to pray. Prayer is an earthly request for heavenly intervention. It is the tool we have been given in order to pull something down out of the invisible and into the visible. Prayer enacts God’s hand in history like nothing else because prayer is humanity’s relational communication with God.

There are several key elements in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that determine whether a prayer will prove effective. The first element is found in the words ”my people, who bear my name.” This is a reference to God’s covenant people. We can approach God through our new-covenant relationship with his Son.

The second element of prayer that moves God is the heart attitude of those who seek him. God seeks those who “humble themselves.” Humble Christians get through to God, for they renounce pride. Humility includes the idea of dependency—the recognition that without the Lord, we can do nothing (see John 15:5). Prayer, in fact, is by its nature an admission of our weakness and need. Many Christians don’t pray because they are too proud.

A third element related to prayer’s effectiveness is God’s call to “seek [his] face.” That is, to seek his forgiveness and favor. We saw an example of this kind of prayer in 7:3, where the people of Israel were so overcome by the manifestation of God’s presence that they fell on their faces in worship. So, seeking God’s face means much more than saying “thank you for this food” or reciting “now I lay me down to sleep.” Prayer that moves God comes from a recognition that sin turns his face away from us and turns us away from him. It approaches God on his terms. Prayer is not a process of negotiation. It requires seeking and accepting God’s terms of reconciliation. The good news is that God invites us to seek his face. He is open to us.

The fourth and final element of effective prayer is for God’s people to “turn from their evil ways.” The idea here is of turning away from something that displeases God and turning toward something that pleases him. If we, as God’s people, want God to show his face to us, we must turn toward him in repentance. That involves turning our backs on sin—anything that is contrary to his will.

7:17-22 The final words from the Lord recorded in this chapter include his promise of blessing if the king walks in God’s ways and judgment for sin if he turns away from keeping God’s commands (7:17-20). Many years later, when the inhabitants of Jerusalem were finally uprooted from their land and sent into exile in Babylon, the people would ask, “How could such a calamity fall on us? Aren’t we God’s people, the object of his favor?” The explanation for God’s judgment should have been clear to them: they abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They clung to other gods and bowed in worship to them and served them. Because of this, he brought all this ruin on them (7:22).

8:1-10 Solomon spent the first half of his forty-year reign occupied primarily with building the temple and his own palace (8:1). And, once they were complete, he was ready to turn his attention to other matters. His desire to extend his kingdom into foreign lands is evident by his conquest of Hamath-zobah, a city in modern-day Syria that was almost three hundred miles north of Jerusalem (8:3). Solomon’s storage cities (8:4, 6) in the north and south of his territory also give us a sense of the reach of his empire.

Previously, the chronicler reported that Solomon conscripted a large number of conquered people (“resident alien men,” 2:17) to work on the temple. These were the descendants of the Canaanite peoples whom the Israelites had not completely destroyed as God had commanded. Solomon had imposed forced labor on them then, and they were still being used in this way in the chronicler’s day (8:8).

8:11 Here, we find a hint of what helped to bring about Solomon’s eventual downfall. He had married the daughter of the Pharaoh, a union that may have been as much political as it was personal because it was common for rulers in that day to cement treaties or other agreements through marriage. Pharaoh’s daughter, though, was only the first of many foreign women Solomon married. These were “women from the nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, and they must not intermarry with you, because they will turn you away to follow their gods.’ To these women Solomon was deeply attached in love . . . and they turned his heart away [from the Lord]” (1 Kgs 11:1-3).

The key to this destructive influence was the fact that Solomon accommodated his wives’ worship of their false gods, while also trying to remain true to the Lord—which was a losing battle. We see a glimpse of this struggle in Solomon’s concern for the places connected with the holy ark of the covenant. David’s palace was erected at one of these locations, so Solomon built a separate palace for his Egyptian wife, lest her pagan origin and ways defile David’s palace.

8:12-16 Ironically, the hint about Solomon’s accommodation to his pagan wife is followed immediately by this report of his great devotion to the Lord. The chronicler notes approvingly that Solomon followed the daily requirement for offerings according to the commandment of Moses (8:13). The king also followed the ordinances of his father David (8:14) in terms of maintaining the divisions of the priests and Levites that David had instituted. Solomon’s diligence in building the temple and establishing its worship was such that there were no deviations from his orders (8:15). Most important of all for the chronicler’s purpose, he was able to report that the Lord’s temple was completed (8:16).

8:17-18 Solomon owned a fleet of commercial ships that brought precious metals, spices, and beautiful woods to Jerusalem. Hiram, the king of Tyre, helped Solomon in this venture by sending him experienced Phoenician sailors (8:18). Trips to such places as Ophir, which may have been as far away as east Africa or India, allowed Solomon to tap into incredible resources to enrich his kingdom.

9:1-12 Perhaps the most famous event in Solomon’s reign was the visit by the queen of Sheba (9:1). Her introduction here may be a reference to the Sabean peoples of southwestern Arabia. By her report, the wisdom and wealth Solomon possessed was known far and wide. The king’s thoughtful answers to her difficult questions and the sight of his wealth took her breath away (9:4). Though she had brought some of her own stockpile of wealth to Solomon (9:9), he sent her back with more than she had delivered (9:12).

9:13-28 Mention of the queen’s visit led the chronicler to a catalog of Solomon’s riches. His annual income of twenty-five tons of gold did not even include the revenue brought in by his commercial navy or the tribute (that is, the taxes) paid to him by lesser rulers (9:13-14). The two hundred large shields of hammered gold and three hundred small shields of hammered gold (9:15-16) were ornamental rather than military in nature; nevertheless, they must have been a very impressive sight. Solomon also built a throne unlike anything that had ever been seen before (9:17-19). The chronicler provides an apt summary of the state of affairs during the heyday of Solomon’s reign: [He] surpassed all the kings of the world in riches and wisdom. All the kings of the world wanted an audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart (9:22-23).

9:29-31 The remaining events of Solomon’s reign, from beginning to end (9:29), were recorded in other places now lost to history. In Scripture, we learn much more about him in 1 Kings, but the events acknowledged there were not part of the chronicler’s focus and purpose.

Rumblings related to the trouble to come must have been in existence even before this king’s death, because we know that many of Solomon’s subjects chafed under aspects of his reign. But, it’s safe to say that no one in Israel could have foreseen, at the time, that Solomon’s death would end Israel’s golden age begun under David, pave the way for a bitter division of the nation, and open the floodgates of idolatry. Solomon did not live to see the damage done by his departure from the Lord, but his descendants did.

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