Building the Temple
The date of the beginning of the building of the temple is given as the 480th year after the children of Israel came out of Egypt, which was also the fourth year of Solomon’s reign. Thanks to the painstaking work of Professor Edwin Thiele, who in 1950 worked out a likely chronology for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (showing the books of Kings to be entirely trustworthy and in harmony with the well-established Assyrian chronology), it can be reasonably ascertained that Rehoboam began his reign in or very close to 931/930 B.C. As 1 Kings 11:42 1 Kings 11:42And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years.
American King James Version×informs us that Solomon reigned 40 years, Solomon’s first year, according to this chronology, was 970/969 B.C., and his fourth year (in which he began the construction of the temple) was 967/966 B.C. Based on these dates, we may conclude that the Exodus occurred in or very close to the year 1447/1446 B.C.
As regards chronology, this chapter also provides us with a way to determine whether Judah was counting the years of a king’s reign using a Nisan-to-Nisan (spring-to-spring) or a Tishri-to-Tishri (autumn-to-autumn) reckoning on the Hebrew calendar. The work on the temple was begun in the second month of Solomon’s fourth year (1 Kings 6:1 1 Kings 6:1And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.
American King James Version×), and completed in the eighth month of Solomon’s 11th year, having been under construction seven years (1 Kings 6:38 1 Kings 6:38And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.
American King James Version×). Months are always numbered from the spring month of Nisan (first month of the sacred year), regardless of whether one is reckoning a year from Nisan to Nisan (sacred year) or Tishri to Tishri (civil year). Reckoning was also inclusive, meaning the first and last units or fractions of units in a group are included and counted as full units. If Judah had been using a Nisan-to-Nisan reckoning of regnal years, the temple would have been described as eight years in building. However, using a Tishri-to-Tishri reckoning yields the seven years of 1 Kings 6:38 1 Kings 6:38And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.
American King James Version×.
The temple sanctuary, which contained the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies, was a rectangular building measuring about 90 feet long by 30 feet wide by 45 feet high. (This and subsequent measurements assume an 18-inch cubit—although it is possible that they may have used the longer 20.5-inch royal cubit from Egypt or a larger variant, which would make these measurements bigger.) On the eastern side of the sanctuary was an enclosed porch that extended the width of the building, projected about 15 feet from it, and apparently formed a 180-foot tower (compare 2 Chronicles 3:4 2 Chronicles 3:4And the porch that was in the front of the house, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the height was an hundred and twenty: and he overlaid it within with pure gold.
American King James Version×). Around the sanctuary building Solomon built a very curious “honeycomb” of offices or rooms. These rooms were arranged in three stories; the lowest rooms were about 7.5 feet wide, the middle story rooms were about 9 feet wide, and the upper rooms were about 10.5 feet wide. In 1 Kings 6:6 1 Kings 6:6The nethermost chamber was five cubits broad, and the middle was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad: for without in the wall of the house he made narrowed rests round about, that the beams should not be fastened in the walls of the house.
American King James Version×, we are told that Solomon built “narrow ledges around the outside of the temple, so that the support beams would not be fastened into the walls of the temple.” This indicates that the sides of the sanctuary had a stepped appearance during construction, and the upper story offices each projected one cubit further toward the sanctuary interior than the office below. No doubt the exterior facade concealed this stepped feature once the building was completed. Within the southern side of the office complex was a “winding stairway”—either a circular or square spiral—that provided access to the second and third story offices. This honeycomb of offices would seem to bear on Christ’s statement, “In My Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14:2 John 14:2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
American King James Version×, NIV). He may have been using the temple’s architecture as a visual model to His teaching (though, as we will examine when we later come to this verse in our reading, He was also probably using another analogy of His day—that of a groom building on to his father’s house to prepare for the addition of his wife to the family).
Interestingly, 1 Kings 6 also tells us that every stone was cut and polished and prepared for its position away from the building site—”so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built” (verse 7). Just as the physical temple of God was built of stones finished and fitted for their place before they were brought to the mountain and assembled into a glorious building, so Christians, each a living stone (1 Peter 2:5 1 Peter 2:5You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×), together a spiritual temple (1 Corinthians 3:16 1 Corinthians 3:16Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
American King James Version×), are being finished and fitted for their place before they will be brought together at the resurrection and assembled in glory.
God’s Promise to Solomon
During the construction of the temple, God sent word to Solomon saying, “If you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David” (1 Kings 6:12 1 Kings 6:12Concerning this house which you are in building, if you will walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with you, which I spoke to David your father:
American King James Version×). Some mistakenly think that this puts a condition on God’s unconditional promise to David in 2 Samuel 7. It does nothing of the sort. God’s promise to David—that he would have an eternal dynasty and never lack a man to sit upon his earthly throne—is unconditional. But God did not promise this eternal dynasty would continue through Solomon’s line.
The unconditional promise was that one of David’s descendants would occupy the throne forever. God’s promise to Solomon was that if he remained faithful, then his line would occupy that throne forever. But Solomon, as we will see, did not remain faithful. Although Solomon’s line still occupies that throne in the person of the British monarch, that throne will be turned over to another of David’s descendants, Jesus Christ, who is a descendent of David through Nathan (Luke 3:31 Luke 3:31Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David,
American King James Version×), not Solomon. This will occur at Christ’s second coming. Solomon’s ruling line will then cease. So, the unconditional promise to David will be kept, but Solomon’s dynasty will not endure forever because he failed to fulfill the condition (see also the highlights for 1 Chronicles 17 and 2 Samuel 7 on “The Davidic Covenant”).