1 Kings 8.1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43
King David proposed to build a temple for the Lord (Hebrew: yhwh – Yahweh) (2 Samuel 7:1), but Yahweh (through the prophet Nathan) denied David permission to do so, saying:
“When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my loving kindness shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
This promise has two key elements. First, David’s son will build Yahweh as temple. Second, Yahweh will establish the son’s kingdom forever. When the son sins, Yahweh will punish him but “my loving kindness shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul” (1 Samuel 7:15).
When David died, Solomon became king (2:10-11). 1 Kings includes extensive tributes to Solomon’s wisdom (chapter 3), the magnificence of his rule (4:20-28), and the fame that he achieved by virtue of his wisdom (4:29-34).
Then the action turns to the building of the temple (chapters 5-6), the building of Solomon’s own palace (7:1-12) and the crafting of furnishings for the temple (7:13-51). Whereas the tabernacle had been a movable tent-like structure symbolizing the presence of God in Israel’s midst, the temple would be a permanent structure that would celebrate Jerusalem as the center of Israel’s religious life.
The building of the temple was completed in the month of Bul, the eighth month, after seven years of construction (6:38). Then we are told that the dedication of the temple was held in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month, at the time of a festival (8:2). That has led some scholars to believe that the dedication was conducted eleven months after the completion of construction, perhaps to join the dedication celebration with the Feast of Tabernacles (also known as the Feast of Booths).
Chapter 8 tells of the dedication of the temple. See 2 Chronicles 5-6 for a parallel account of the dedication of the temple.
Then in chapter 9, Yahweh appears to Solomon and promises continuity of Solomon’s throne IF Solomon keeps Yahweh’s statutes and ordinances (9:1-5). However, Yahweh says, “But if you turn away from following me, you or your children, and not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have made holy for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all peoples. Though this house is so high, yet shall everyone who passes by it be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, ‘Why has Yahweh done thus to this land, and to this house?’ and they shall answer, ‘Because they forsook Yahweh their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold of other gods, and worshiped them, and served them. Therefore Yahweh has brought all this evil on them'” (9:6-9).
Chapter 11 will tell of Solomon’s sins (11:1-13) and the Lord raising up an adversary against Solomon (11:14). Then we begin to see the beginning of the fall of the kingdom (chapter 12).
1 KINGS 8:1. SOLOMON ASSEMBLED THE ELDERS OF ISRAEL
1Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the fathers’ households of the children of Israel, to king Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of Yahweh out of the city of David, which is Zion.
Solomon begins the dedication ceremony by establishing links to Israel’s past—the elders of Israel—the heads of the tribes—the leaders of the ancestral houses—the ark of the covenant.
The ark of the covenant is a portable chest that was constructed for use in the tabernacle during Israel’s forty years in the wilderness. It contains a copy of the law (Exodus 25:16) a jar of manna (Exodus 16:33-34), and Aaron’s rod (Numbers 17:4ff.). The ark has poles attached so that priests could carry it from place to place as Israel moved about in the wilderness.
The mercy seat, atop the ark, represents the presence of God, and the ark was placed in the Holy of Holies (the holiest place in the tabernacle). After Israel settled into the Promised Land, David brought the ark to Jerusalem, where he placed it in a tent (2 Samuel 6:17).
Now that Solomon has built a temple, the ark can be moved from the tent to the temple, thus marking a transition from the wilderness era to a more settled era—from a God who dwells in a tent and moves from place to place to a God who dwells in a temple—a fixed rather than portable dwelling. However, as Solomon will make clear in his prayer, Yahweh cannot be confined to a temple, however grand (8:27).
Later, after the temple is destroyed in 587 B.C., there will be no further mention of the ark. Later temples will not include the ark.
1 KINGS 8:6. THE PRIESTS BROUGHT IN THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
6The priests brought in the ark of the covenant of Yahweh to its place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim.
“to the most holy place” Just as the ark rested in the holiest place in the tabernacle, so also it is brought to rest in the holiest part of the temple.
“under the wings of the cherubim” Cherubim are winged creatures. In the tabernacle, two cherubim were placed at either end of the mercy seat with their wings spread above the mercy seat (Exodus 25:18-20). In like manner, the priests, place the ark in the temple underneath the wings of the cherubim.
1 KINGS 8:10-11. A CLOUD FILLED THE HOUSE OF THE LORD
10 It came to pass, when the priests had come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of Yahweh, 11so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of Yahweh filled the house of Yahweh.
“the cloud filled the house of Yahweh” (v. 10). Clouds are associated with the presence of the Lord in both testaments (Exodus 13:21-22; 16:10; 19:9; Mark 9:7). The cloud that fills the temple is like the cloud that filled the tabernacle at its completion (Exodus 40:34-38).
“the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of Yahweh filled the house of Yahweh” (v. 11b). The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of Yahweh’s presence, and is a common theme in both Old and New Testaments (Exodus 16:7, 10; 24:16; 40:34; Leviticus 9:6, 23; Numbers 14:10, 21; Psalm 104:31; 138:5; Isaiah 35:2; 40:5; 58:8; 60:1; Ezekiel 10:18; 44:4; Luke 2:9; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 8:19).
This incident where the priests cannot continue their ministry because of the glory of the Lord harks back to the completion of the tabernacle when “Moses wasn’t able to enter into the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud stayed on it, and Yahweh’s glory filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:35).
1 KINGS 8:12-21. NOT INCLUDED IN THE LECTIONARY READING
In these verses, Solomon briefly recounts the history of his father, David, who wanted to build a temple but was told that his son would do so instead. Solomon says, “Yahweh has established his word that he spoke; for I have risen up in the place of David my father, and I sit on the throne of Israel, as Yahweh promised, and have built the house for the name of Yahweh, the God of Israel” (v. 20).
1 KINGS 8:22-26. NOW PLEASE LET YOUR WORD BE VERIFIED
22Solomon stood before the altar of Yahweh in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven; 23and he said, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above, or on earth beneath; who keep covenant and loving kindness with your servants, who walk before you with all their heart; 24who have kept with your servant David my father that which you promised him. Yes, you spoke with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is this day. 25Now therefore, may Yahweh, the 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, if only your children take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26Now therefore, God of Israel, please let your word be verified, which you spoke to your servant David my father.”
As noted above, Yahweh earlier promised David to establish the throne of David’s son forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16). David, on his deathbed, recounted this promise to Solomon (2:4). Solomon alluded to this promise in his words to the assembly just before he began his prayer (v. 20). Now he first extols Yahweh’s greatness and then prays that Yahweh will keep his promise (v. 25).
However, two things are noteworthy here. The first is that Yahweh’s promise to David is expressed in conditional terms in Psalm 132, where Yahweh promised, ” If your children will keep my covenant, my testimony that I will teach them, their children also will sit on your throne forevermore” (Psalm 132:12). The second is the fact that the narrative has already told us that Solomon’s conduct has been less than faithful. He has married Pharaoh’s daughter (3:1) and has “sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places” (3:3)—places characterized by pagan worship and unfaithfulness to Yahweh (Leviticus 26:30; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 7:5; 12:3).
1 KINGS 8:27-30. BUT WILL GOD IN VERY DEED DWELL ON THE EARTH?
27“But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens can’t contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28Yet have respect for the prayer of your servant, and for his supplication, Yahweh my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which your servant prays before you this day; 29that your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there;’ to listen to the prayer which your servant shall pray toward this place. 30Listen to the supplication of your servant, and of your people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place. Yes, hear in heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive.”
“But will God in every deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens can’t contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (v. 27). This puts Yahweh and the temple in proper perspective. While the temple represents Yahweh’s presence, it cannot properly be called Yahweh’s dwelling place. Yahweh cannot be limited to one dwelling place. Yahweh cannot be contained even by the highest heaven.
“Yet have respect for the prayer of your servant, and for his supplication, Yahweh my God” (v. 28a). Having acknowledged Yahweh’s exalted status, Solomon prays for Yahweh’s blessing on the temple and further prays that Yahweh will hear his plea and the plea of Israel when they pray for forgiveness (v. 30).
“My name shall be there” (v. 29b). If the temple cannot properly be called the dwelling place of Yahweh (v. 27), it can at least be called the place of Yahweh’s name. In Biblical times, a person’s name was thought to be more than a label—was considered to embody something of the essential character of the person. If Yahweh’s name is present at the temple, Yahweh is also present in some real and substantial way.
“to listen to the prayer which your servant shall pray toward this place” (v. 29c; see also 30a). Solomon doesn’t ask that Yahweh will heed prayers prayed in the temple but instead prays that Yahweh will heed prayers that are prayed “toward this place.” This would be quite significant to Jews not physically present in Jerusalem. It suggests that prayers prayed “toward this place” are as effective as prayers prayed inside the temple. This would be an important point for the Israelites in exile. As noted below, this work (1-2 Kings) was not completed before the exile began.
“Yes, hear in heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive” (v. 30b). Once again, Solomon acknowledges that the temple cannot properly be considered Yahweh’s dwelling place. Whereas in verse 27 he said that even the highest heaven cannot contain Yahweh, in verse 30b, he says that heaven is Yahweh’s dwelling place. We need not think of this as contradictory. Yahweh’s dwelling place is heaven, but Yahweh cannot be contained even by the highest heaven. He is present also in the temple—and wherever else he chooses to be present.
1 KINGS 8:31-53. SEVEN PETITIONS
In these verses, most of which (vv. 31-40; 44-53) are not included in this lectionary reading, Solomon prays a seven-petition prayer:
1. Solomon prays that Yahweh will condemn the guilty and vindicate the righteous in situations where it is difficult for human judges to determine the truth (vv. 31-32).
2. He prays that when Israel is defeated but then repents that Yahweh will forgive their sins “and bring them again to the land which you gave to their fathers” (vv. 33-34).
3. He prays that when Yahweh stops the rain because of the sins of Israel, and Israel then repents, that Yahweh will forgive them and give them rain (vv. 35-36).
4. He prays regarding a whole host of disasters (famine, plague, blight, etc.) brought on by Israel’s sin. He prays that when Israel repents, Yahweh will forgive them (vv. 37-40).
5. In the only one of the seven petitions to be included in the lectionary reading, Solomon prays that “concerning the foreigner… come out of a far country for your name’s sake” and “pray toward this house” that Yahweh will answer the foreigner’s prayer (vv. 41-43).
6. He prays that when Israel goes into battle and prays for Yahweh’s help that Yahweh will help them (vv. 44-45).
7. He prays that Israel sins, is carried into captivity because of its sin and then repents that Yahweh will forgive them and grant them compassion (vv. 46-53). This is by far the longest and most complex of the seven petitions, and reflects the fact that 1-2 Kings was written during the Babylonian Exile when Jerusalem and the temple lay in ruins (Tucker, 287).
1 KINGS 8:41-43. WHEN A FOREIGNER SHALL COME AND PRAY
41“Moreover concerning the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for your name’s sake 42(for they shall hear of your great name, and of your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm); when he shall come and pray toward this house; 43hear in heaven, your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you for; that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by your name.”
This is the fifth of seven petitions in this prayer and the only one of the seven petitions (vv. 31-53) that is included in this lectionary reading.
Solomon prays that Yahweh will hear the prayer of a foreigner who has “come out of a far country for your name’s sake” (v. 41). This is not just any foreigner, then, but a foreigner who comes as an act of religious devotion out of respect for Yahweh’s name.
Solomon’s purpose in praying that the foreigner’s prayer be answered is “that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel” (v. 43b). This remarkable prayer captures the spirit that Yahweh first introduced in the call of Abram—that “All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you” (Genesis 12:3). This prayer is remarkable in the sense that Israel too seldom feels this sense of mission to those outside the Jewish community. The prophets, however, will express this sentiment (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6), and we will continue to see this emphasis in the New Testament (Matthew 2:1-12; 24:14; 28:19-20; Mark 13:10; Luke 24:47).
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
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Dilday, Russell H., The Preacher’s Commentary: 1 & 2 Kings (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987)
Fretheim, Terence E., Westminster Bible Companion: 1-2 Kings (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999)
Hens-Piazza, Gina, Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries: 1-2 Kings (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006)
Hinton, Linda B., Basic Bible Commentary: First and Second Kings (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988)
House, Paul R., New American Commentary: 1, 2 Kings, Vol. 8 (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995)
Inrig, Gary, Holman Old Testament Commentary: I & II Kings (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003)
Leithart, Peter, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: 1 & 2 Kings (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006)
Longman, Tremper III, in Van Harn, Roger (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Text. The First Readings: The Old Testament and Acts (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001)
Provan, Iain W., New International Biblical Commentary: 1 and 2 Kings (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995)
Smith, Norman H. (Exegesis) and Sockman, Ralph W. (Exposition), The Interpreter’s Bible: Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Job (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1954)
Tucker, Gene M. in Craddock, Fred B.; Hayes, John H.; Holliday, Carl R.; and Tucker, Gene M.,Preaching Through the Christian Year, C (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1994)
Wiseman, Donald J., Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1 & 2 Kings (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1993)
Copyright 2007, 2010, 2015, Richard Niell Donovan