Bible Commentary: 1 Kings 8:22-53 and Related

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1 Kings 8:22-53 and Related

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Solomon’s Dedicatory Prayer For the Temple

Solomon’s prayer of dedication is interesting in many respects. In 2 Chronicles 6:12-17 2 Chronicles 6:12-17 [12] And he stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands: [13] For Solomon had made a brazen scaffold of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and had set it in the middle of the court: and on it he stood, and kneeled down on his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven. [14] And said, O LORD God of Israel, there is no God like you in the heaven, nor in the earth; which keep covenant, and show mercy to your servants, that walk before you with all their hearts: [15] You which have kept with your servant David my father that which you have promised him; and spoke with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is this day. [16] Now therefore, O LORD God of Israel, keep with your servant David my father that which you have promised him, saying, There shall not fail you a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; yet so that your children take heed to their way to walk in my law, as you have walked before me. [17] Now then, O LORD God of Israel, let your word be verified, which you have spoken to your servant David.
American King James Version×
Solomon brings up God’s promise to David and asks for its fulfillment. This passage is used by some to declare that the promise of God to David in 2 Samuel 7 is conditional, with gainsayers noting that Solomon said, “You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk in My law as you have walked before Me” (verse 16). The only if, it is asserted, makes it conditional. And since David’s descendants did not continue to walk in his ways, God was not bound to fulfill the promise of an enduring dynasty (except, they further assert, through Christ, David’s “greater son”).

But this is simply not so. This phrase—only if—is a Hebraism, that is, a figure of speech that cannot be literally translated into another language and still retain its meaning. In Hebrew, the phrase only if conveys the general meaning “but be certain that,” and is intended to convey the strongest of affirmations, injunctions or prohibitions. It does not convey qualification.

Solomon’s dedicatory prayer makes repeated mention of praying “toward this place,” a clear intimation that the temple was to become the center of a world religion—that is, the true religion God gave was to become worldwide. In his prayer, Solomon anticipates both a worldwide dispersal of Israelites (whether through commerce, colonization or captivity) and a turning of the gentiles to the worship of God. Whether he understood the full implications of his words is unclear, but God certainly inspired him with prophetic thoughts. Specific subjects include answering prayers for forgiveness, justice, deliverance from captivity and military attack, mercy while in captivity, rain and good harvests, respite from plagues and agricultural devastation, and the prayers of the gentiles made in the temple (implying gentile converts to the true religion). In all these matters, Solomon beseeches God to hear and answer.

But Solomon does not portray God as a sort of cosmic genie, duty-bound to grant wishes upon request. Before mentioning the various kinds of things that people would pray for, Solomon soberly conditions the minds of his hearers as to exactly who will dwell within this magnificent temple. God is a God of kept promises given freely in grace, not because He is under compulsion to do so. And He is a God who cannot be confined to a building, no matter how magnificent it is. God dwells in heaven and is not man’s creation! God is supreme and cannot be bound. In short, God is sovereign, and every petitioner must have an acute awareness of his need for God’s mercy, grace and providence.

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