Bible Commentary: 1 Kings 8:1-21 and Related

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1 Kings 8:1-21 and Related

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The Dedication of the Temple

Of all the days that ever passed upon the earth, surely the day that Solomon dedicated the temple must rank as one of the most awesome. The temple was a magnificent creation, with stunning gold, silver, bronze, jewels, marble, engraving and woodwork adorning its every feature. To be in its courts must have been a breathtaking experience!

The dedication of this extraordinary edifice—every aspect of which was masterfully designed to express and extol the magnificence of the One who dwelt within—was an occasion that called for the greatest pomp and ceremony. To the dedication Solomon invited Israel’s most important dignitaries. Two groups are specifically mentioned in 1 Kings 8:1 1 Kings 8:1Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, to king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.
American King James Version×
—the “elders of Israel” and “the heads of the tribes, the chiefs of the fathers of the children of Israel.” Some have concluded that these two groups are distinct—representing the government of Israel in its national and tribal components. Those with this view see the “elders of Israel” as the members of the governing body in Israel’s national government, functioning, it is surmised, somewhat like a House of Lords or Senate. According to the same view, the “heads of the tribes, the chiefs of the fathers of the children of Israel,” apparently one from each tribe, are seen as the senior members of the individual tribal governments. We know for sure that Israel’s government was not an absolute monarchy. It was “constitutional”—that is, rather than the king’s word being the highest law of the land, his own powers derived from the written law of Moses as given by God, to which he was himself answerable. It also appears that Israel’s government may have been a federal monarchy—the word “federal” describing a system wherein separate states are united under one central authority while retaining certain regulatory powers.

The dedication of the temple occurred in the Feast of the seventh month (1 Kings 8:2 1 Kings 8:2And all the men of Israel assembled themselves to king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.
American King James Version×
, 2 Chronicles 5:3 2 Chronicles 5:3Why all the men of Israel assembled themselves to the king in the feast which was in the seventh month.
American King James Version×
). This may seem somewhat odd, as the temple construction ceased in the eighth month (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×
). This means that the temple stood unoccupied for nearly a year before it was dedicated. Why did Solomon choose to wait 11 months before dedicating this magnificent edifice? It may be that all of the temple furnishings were not yet complete. Of course, it may also be that everything was complete and that Solomon simply waited intentionally. The Bible doesn’t spell out the reason for the delay.

Whatever the case, it is interesting that the dedication took place in the feast of the seventh month. But just which feast was this—the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles or the Eighth Day (also known as the Last Great Day)—all of which fall during that same month? (See Leviticus 23.) It should be noted that only one of God’s annual festivals is elsewhere actually called simply the “Feast of the Lord”—i.e., the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:39 Leviticus 23:39Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep a feast to the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath.
American King James Version×
). A seven-day festival, it was clearly the major feast of the seventh month. Yet 1 King 8:65-66 records that the dedication of the temple was 14 days. Strangely, however, it says that the people were sent away on the eighth day. As it makes no sense for this to mean the eighth day out of 14, these verses must mean that the 14th day of the dedication feast was the Eighth Day—that is, Tishri 22 on the Hebrew Calendar or what we now often refer to as the Eighth Day—and that the people were dismissed at the end of that day. In fact, 2 Chronicles 7:9-10 2 Chronicles 7:9-10 [9] And in the eighth day they made a solemn assembly: for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days. [10] And on the three and twentieth day of the seventh month he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the LORD had showed to David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people.
American King James Version×
states that the people observed the dedication of the altar for seven days and the feast for seven days, finally being sent away on the 23rd day of the seventh month, which must mean the very beginning of that day at sunset (which would also be the end of the 22nd, i.e., the end of the Eighth Day). Thus, the feast of the dedication clearly began prior to the Feast of Tabernacles—with the entire period apparently being looked upon as one expanded Feast of Tabernacles.

The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the Kingdom of God and is, therefore, eminently the Kingdom Feast, looking to the future enthronement of the divine King, Jesus Christ, and the inauguration of the government of God on Earth. Thus, the enthronement symbolism is fitting for the enthronement of God in His temple.

In a stupendous display, “the glory of the Lord”—an awesome glowing cloud—“filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:11 1 Kings 8:11So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.
American King James Version×
). “As a cloud had covered the tabernacle and God’s glory had filled it when it was inaugurated (Exodus 40:34 Exodus 40:34Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
American King James Version×
), so now a cloud filled the temple. This visible presence of God’s dwelling with His people—sometimes called the ‘shekinah [indwelling] glory’—gave the people assurance and incentive for obedient and holy living” (Nelson Study Bible, note on 1 Kings 8:10-11 1 Kings 8:10-11 [10] And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, [11] So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.
American King James Version×
).

As for Solomon’s speech, given before he passionately prays that God will always hear and respond to the prayers of His people, he recounts the promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7, where God foretold an enduring dynasty descended from David. Solomon specifically identifies himself as the son who, as God promised, would build the temple. This speech, divinely sanctioned and preserved for all time by God in Scripture, verifies that the promise made to David in 2 Samuel 7 refers to Solomon, the immediate son of David. It invalidates attempts to “spiritualize” the promises of 2 Samuel 7 regarding David’s house—that is, mistakenly claiming they are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Although Jesus is building God’s Church, God’s spiritual temple, nevertheless the promise made by God to David through the prophet Nathan referred to a literal and immediate son of David—and that David’s dynasty would continue forever from that time. While there is likely duality in 2 Samuel 7, the primary and intended meaning of the promise to David concerns a successor son and a literal physical temple—and a literal dynasty beginning at that time that would never end.

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