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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 7

 

 

Verses 1-12

The Building Of Solomon’s Own Palace (1 Kings 7:1-12).

The building of Solomon’s palace complex comes between the description of the building of the Temple and the further details of the completion of the Temple in 1 Kings 7:13-51). This may well have been because they were all included within the wall of the Great Court (1 Kings 7:9; 1 Kings 7:12). But a more patent reason is that the writer was bringing out how much longer the time was that was spent on Solomon’s palace complex than on the Temple, and how much larger his palace was. This is emphasised by the fact that 1 Kings 7:1 immediately follows 1 Kings 6:37, making the contrast specific and explicit. It fits in with the fact that while continually expanding on the glory of Solomon the writer also constantly draws attention to where Solomon failed (compare 1 Kings 3:3; 1 Kings 5:13-16 in the context of what follows). He was not wearing rose-tinted spectacles. You can almost hear him saying, ‘Solomon was undoubtedly splendid, wealthy and wise, BUT ---.’

The Palace was probably built on the north east side of the Temple mount, adjacent to the Temple. But once again we are faced with technical words and technical descriptions, all of which would have been plain at the time, but are not so plain to us now. Very little detail is actually given and we do not intend to give the various alternative possibilities, as in the end all are necessarily speculative. The aim of what information was given was to bring out its grandeur and luxuriousness, not to give detailed specifications. To the Israelites, unaccustomed to such buildings, it must have appeared as one of the wonders of the world.

Analysis.

a And Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house (1 Kings 7:1).

b For he built the house of the forest of Lebanon. Its length was a hundred cubits, and its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits, on four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams on the pillars, and it was covered with cedar above, over the forty and five beams, that were on the pillars, fifteen in a row (1 Kings 7:2-3).

c And there were beams in three rows, and window was over against window in three ranks, and all the doors and posts were made square with beams, and window was over against window in three ranks (1 Kings 7:4-5).

d And he made the hall of pillars; its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth was thirty cubits, and a porch before them, and pillars and a threshold before them (1 Kings 7:6).

e And he made the hall of the throne where he was to judge, even the hall of judgment, and it was covered with cedar from floor to floor (1 Kings 7:7).

d And his house where he was to dwell, the other court within the porch, was of the like work. He made also a house for Pharaoh’s daughter (whom Solomon had taken to wife), which was like this porch (1 Kings 7:8).

c All these were of costly stones, even of hewn stone, according to measure, sawed with saws, within and without, even from the foundation to the coping, and so on the outside to the great court (1 Kings 7:9).

b And the foundation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of ten cubits, and stones of eight cubits, and above were costly stones, even hewn stone, according to measure, and cedar-wood (1 Kings 7:10-11).

a And the great court round about had three courses of hewn stone, and a course of cedar beam, in a similar fashion to the inner court of the house of YHWH, and the porch of the house (1 Kings 7:12).

Note that in ‘a’ he built and finished his house, and in the parallel he built around it the great court. In ‘b’ the emphasis is on the largeness of the building, and in the parallel the emphasis is on the largeness of the foundation. In ‘c’ more of the detail is given and in the parallel details of the method of working are supplied. In ‘d’ we have a description of the hall of pillars, and in the parallel a description of the two palaces. Centrally in ‘e’ we have the hall of justice where the righteousness of the Law would be applied.

1 Kings 7:1

And Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house.’

Together with the building of the Temple the whole project took twenty years, that is, twenty years of hard labour for the Israelites and the Canaanites (and they were not even finished then for there would be much further building work - 1 Kings 9:17-19). The contrast between seven years for the Temple and thirteen years here has been made impossible to avoid. It is a reminder that, although Solomon gloried in the Lord, he gloried in Solomon more.

1 Kings 7:2

For he built the house of the forest of Lebanon. Its length was a hundred cubits, and its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits, on four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams on the pillars.’

Solomon’s palace complex was divided up into sections, although those sections were probably in one huge building. Such large palace complexes were a common feature of the ancient world. Some such complexes were found at Ebla in Syria around 2300 BC. Compare also the huge complexes at Mari, Nineveh, Babylon, Alalakh and Ugarit, and also later at Samaria. It was made up of the house of the forest of Lebanon (so named after its rows of huge cedar pillars), which was among other things a treasury and armoury (1 Kings 10:17; Isaiah 22:8); the hall of pillars, which was probably where people waited who wanted to attend on the king; the hall of justice, which was where he openly dispensed justice; and his own living quarters; and the spacious living quarters of Pharaoh’s daughter, his Egyptian wife. It would no doubt also have included space for a number of his harem (1 Kings 11:3). Others of his large harem were probably quartered in different cities around the country, living in luxury and available for whenever he visited.

The measurements of the house of the Forest of Lebanon dwarf the Temple, a contrast that the writer no doubt intended us to observe. It was one hundred cubits long (compared with sixty), fifty cubits wide (compared with twenty), and thirty cubits high, and was especially notable for the four rows of huge cedar pillars around which it was constructed. The pillars, which would have looked like a forest of cedars, were what gave the house its name, and they were necessary so as to bear its massive roof, and possibly a second story. There were apparently fifteen pillars in each row.

That the house was built ‘on the pillars’ simply indicates that the pillars held the house up, and must not be overpressed (as though the house was on stilts).

1 Kings 7:3

And it was covered with cedar above over the forty and five beams, that were on the pillars, fifteen in a row.’

The four rows of pillars were connected at the top by huge beams, forty five in all, stretching across from pillar to pillar, on which the massive roof, or possibly an upper story, would rest. (The word for ‘beams’ can, however, mean either beams or side chambers, as in 1 Kings 6:5; 1 Kings 6:8; 1 Kings 6:15-16)

1 Kings 7:4

And there were beams in three rows, and window was over against window in three ranks.’

The beams were in three rows, lying on top of the four rows of pillars, and in each of the side walls were three rows of windows, paralleled on each side. Alternately we may see this as indicating side chambers on three stories, as with the Temple.

1 Kings 7:5

And all the doors and doorposts were made square with beams, and window was over against window in three ranks.’

All the doors and door posts were made square with the beams, thus providing strength to the construction, and to the doors, and it is again repeated that the windows were opposite each other in three ranks. It is being emphasised that the whole place was light and airy.

1 Kings 7:6

And he made the hall (porch) of pillars. Its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth thirty cubits; and a porch before them, and pillars and a threshold before them.

This large ‘hall of pillars’ may have been built on to the front of the house of the forest of Lebanon, stretching across its width of fifty cubits. It may have been where people who were seeking audience to the king waited. This hall too had its own porch, with pillars and a threshold in front of it.

1 Kings 7:7 And he made the hall (porch) of the throne where he was to judge, even the hall (porch) of judgment, and it was covered with cedar from floor to floor.’

He also built a hall where he could dispense justice, which contained his throne of judgment. This was covered with cedar ‘from floor to floor’ i.e. from the floor below to the ‘floor’ above (we would say from floor to ceiling).

1 Kings 7:8

And his house where he was to dwell, the other court within the building (porch), was of similar work. He made also a house for Pharaoh’s daughter (whom Solomon had taken to wife), which was like this building (porch).’

Solomon’s house was built in a similar way, of stone and cedar, with its own court, while, probably on the other side of the courtyard, a house was built for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom Solomon had taken as his wife. This was built in a similar way. All the buildings may in fact have been built around this central court, but the descriptions are too vague for us to be certain. It would be necessary for Pharaoh’s daughter to have her own special apartments because of her unique status, but parts of the harem were no doubt also housed close by. The writer is simply bringing out that the people of highest status were given accommodation suitable to their status, and reminding us that Solomon had married Pharaoh’s daughter. All who heard it would have been suitably impressed.

1 Kings 7:9

All these were of costly stones, even of hewn stone, according to measure, sawed with saws, within and without, even from the foundation to the coping, and so on the outside to the great court.’

All these building were built with valuable stonework from top to bottom, stones which had been cut out of the mountains and hewn with saws, to careful measurement so as to fit into their place in the complex. They would be made of the soft limestone which, on having been cut out of the hills, would gradually harden naturally on exposure to the air. The great court probably surrounded the whole, including the Temple (which as we have seen had its own inner court).

1 Kings 7:10

And the foundation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of ten cubits, and stones of eight cubits.’

The foundations of the buildings were made of massive stones, some of which were ten cubits long, and some of eight cubits. These were not overlarge compared with building stones found in similar buildings elsewhere, but would have appeared huge to the Israelites.

1 Kings 7:11

And above were costly stones, even hewn stone, according to measure, and cedar-wood.’

On top of the foundation the remainder of the building was of valuable stonework, made to measure, and of cedar wood. The aim was to bring out how carefully it was built, and how massive and luxurious was the whole.

1 Kings 7:12

And the great court round about had three courses of hewn stone, and a course of cedar beams, like as the inner court of the house of YHWH, and the porch of the house.’

The great court probably contained all the buildings including the Temple, and it was surrounded by a wall made up of three courses of stone to one of cedar wood, in a similar way to the wall of the inner court of the Temple. This was a common construction with buildings found elsewhere (including at Ugarit) and was probably in order to enable it to withstand earthquakes.


Verse 13-14

Solomon Sends For A Tyrian Expert To Fashion The Embellishments And New Furnishings For The Temple (1 Kings 7:13-14).

These two verses introduce the whole. They commence with Solomon sending for a man named Hiram (not the king) whom he fetches out of Tyre. There appears to be a deliberate attempt in the description of him to bring to mind Bezalel, the skilled worker who made the Tabernacle furnishings and embellishments (Exodus 35:30-33), for he is described as being ‘filled with wisdom (chokmah), and understanding (tabuwn), and skill (da’ath) to work all works in bronze’. With this we can compare the description of Bezalel, ‘He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom (chokmah), and in understanding (tabuwn), and in knowledge (da’ath), and in all manner of workmanship --.’

But the differences are significant:

Bezalel was called by YHWH from among Israel, Hiram was sent for by Solomon out of Tyre, being only half Israelite.

Bezalel was ‘filled with the Spirit of God’ in wisdom, understanding and knowledge, Hiram was simply filled with wisdom, understanding and knowledge (mention of the Holy Spirit is consciously dropped).

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that in the first case God was to be seen as at work, and in the second case Solomon was at work, doing the best he could. It all fits in with the constant impression that somehow Solomon’s Temple falls short of the Tabernacle, even though that fact was probably not recognised by many at the time when it was built. People are always impressed by grandeur and splendour (we can compare the disciples’ reaction to Herod’s Temple, and Jesus’ verdict on it - Mark 13:1-2 and parallels).

1 Kings 7:13

And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre.’

The Temple having been completed Solomon sought a skilled metalworker to fashion the embellishments that he had in mind for the Temple. The man he found was Hiram of Tyre (an artisan, not the king), called in Chronicles Hurum-abi (2 Chronicles 2:13), which was an alternative for Hiram. It was not unusual for the name of an architect to be given when describing building work, for it is evidenced elsewhere. The -abi (my father) may well have been a title of honour given to Hiram because of his supreme skill as a master workman.

1 Kings 7:14

He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze, and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill, to work all works in bronze. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work.’

Hiram was the son of a widow who was an Israelite of the tribe of Naphtali. She had married a Tyrian worker in bronze. Like Bezalel, the son of Uri, (Exodus 35:30; Exodus 36:1-2) he was skilled, competent and intelligent, and he was a specialist in working bronze, but there is no suggestion that (in the same way as Bezalel was) he was ‘filled with the Spirit of YHWH’. Nor was he a full Israelite. Thus in everything the Temple was seen to be second rate compared with the Tabernacle. It was man-impelled, not God-impelled. It was man-designed, not God-designed. The creator of its furnishings was only half-Israelite and living in a foreign country. And it will be noted that he is only mentioned in connection with work performed outside the inner sacred sanctuary. He was, however, an extremely highly skilled craftsman, and he came to Solomon and ‘wrought all his work’. Along with his assistants he did the best he could.

According to 2 Chronicles 2:13, his mother was “of the daughters of Dan,” which would suggest that she was of the tribe of Dan. But there is no real problem with that, for Israelite women necessarily changed tribes when they married into another tribe, something which was a regular occurrence. Each woman was adopted by the tribe of her husband. Thus Hiram’s mother could simply be a Danite by birth, who had married into the tribe of Naphtali, prior to marrying the Tyrian who was Hiram’s father, once her first husband had died.


Verses 13-51

The Furnishing And Embellishment Of The Temple (1 Kings 7:13-51).

The passage is divided into two parts. The first part emphasises that what is described was the work of Hiram, a skilled metalworker and carpenter from Tyre who was half Israelite, half Tyrian. He was called on to complete the furnishing and embellishing of the Temple for the Inner court. It will be noted that there is a deliberate attempt to parallel him with Bezalel, the craftsman who made the original Tabernacle furnishings and embellishments (Exodus 35:30-33), for he is described in similar terms. What is lacking is the idea that that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, or that he was a full-born Israelite. The second part describes all the furnishings for the new Sanctuary, for which overall credit is given to Solomon.

The whole passage is also divided into three subsections by the following closing phrases;

1). ‘So was the work of the pillars finished’ (1 Kings 7:22). In the subsection up to this point we have described the making by Hiram of the two bronze pillars Yakin and Boaz which were clearly seen as of great importance. Interpreted they meant ‘He establishes’ and ‘with strength’.

2). ‘So Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he had wrought for king Solomon for the house of YHWH’ (1 Kings 7:40). In the subsection up to this point we have a description of the making by Hiram of the molten sea, together with the ten lavers and many accompanying implements.

3). ‘Thus all the work that king Solomon wrought in the house of YHWH was finished’ (1 Kings 7:51). This completes the passage and in this subsection we have described the full variety of the embellishments and furnishings of the Temple, including the ones crafted by Hiram, which Solomon had arranged for, and what they consisted of material-wise.

We can compare with this how in chapter 6 the passage was divided into three parts by the references to ‘he built the house and finished it’ and its equivalents (1 Kings 6:9; 1 Kings 6:14; 1 Kings 6:38).

The first part of the passage, which refers to the activities of Hiram the Metalworker is also carefully crafted and can be analysed as follows:

a And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze, and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill, to work all works in bronze (1 Kings 7:13-14 a). .

b And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work (1 Kings 7:14 b).

c The making of the two free standing pillars, Yakin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:15-22).

d The making of the molten Sea (1 Kings 7:23-26).

c The making of the ten large washing bowls of water (the lavers) (1 Kings 7:27-39).

b And Hiram made the lavers, and the shovels, and the basins (1 Kings 7:40 a).

a So Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he wrought for king Solomon in the house of YHWH (1 Kings 7:40 b).

Note how in ‘a’ Hiram wrought all Solomon’s work for him, and in the parallel he made an end of all the work that he wrought for king Solomon. In ‘b’ he came to king Solomon and wrought all his work, and in the parallel some of what he wrought is described. In ‘c’ he made the two free standing pillars, and in the parallel he made the ten lavers. Centrally in ‘d’ he made the molten Sea.


Verses 15-22

Hiram Fashions The Two Pillars Of Bronze, Yakin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:15-22).

In front of the Temple were to be placed two pillars, which, going by clay models of temples which have been discovered in Palestine and Cyprus (13th-9th centuries BC), and possible examples found elsewhere (e.g. in Hazor, Arad and Kition), would be free standing. This is also confirmed on Sidonian coins. One of the pillars was named Yakin (‘He establishes’), and the other was named Boaz (‘with strength’). We must always beware of just assuming that similarity of construction meant similarity of significance, for even though there may often be common ground in religious symbols, in the end each country imbues its own symbols with its own meaning. And this was moreso with Israel than with any other nation. So we must in this case seek in them some significance which pointed towards the uniqueness of YHWH, for at this time Solomon was undoubtedly still fully focused on the sole worship of YHWH. Possibly in fact the thought is that of a proclamation, ‘He establishes -- with strength (the house of David)’. Another remoter possibility is that, with their decoration of blood-red pomegranates and lotus blossoms (an Egyptian symbol of life), they represented the two unique trees in the Garden of Eden, with one acting as a warning against sin and the other offering the possibility of life from YHWH. But the pomegranate was always seen as a sign of fruitfulness, and, alternated with bells, adorned the High Priest’s robe. Thus they are more likely to be giving a positive picture as two witnesses to creation, and to God’s promises to Israel.

Analysis.

a For he fashioned the two pillars of bronze, eighteen cubits high apiece. And a line of twelve cubits compassed each of them about (1 Kings 7:15).

b And he made two capitals of molten bronze, to set on the tops of the pillars: the height of the one capital was five cubits, and the height of the other capital was five cubits (1 Kings 7:16).

c There were nets of checker-work, and wreaths of chain-work, for the capitals which were on the top of the pillars, seven for the one capital, and seven for the other capital (1 Kings 7:17).

d So he made the pillars, and there were two rows round about on the one network, to cover the capitals that were on the top of the pillars, and so did he for the other capital. And the capitals that were on the top of the pillars in the porch were of lily-work, four cubits (1 Kings 7:18-19).

c And there were capitals above also on the two pillars, close by the belly which was beside the network, and the pomegranates were two hundred, in rows round about on the other capital (1 Kings 7:20).

b And he set up the pillars at the porch of the temple. And he set up the right pillar, and called its name Yachin, and he set up the left pillar, and called its name Boaz, and on the top of the pillars was lily-work (1 Kings 7:21-22 a.

a So was the work of the pillars finished (1 Kings 7:22 b).

Note that in ‘a’ he fashioned the pillars, and in the parallel the pillars were finished. In ‘b’ the heads were set on the top of the pillars, and in ‘b’ the pillars were set up with the tops of the pillars (the heads) being lily-work. In ‘c’ we have a description of decorations on the heads, and in the parallel we have further descriptions of the decorations on the heads. In ‘d’ and centrally we have a summary of the pillars and their heads, with an emphasis on the lily-work (or lotus blossoms). The lily-work or lotus blossoms were clearly seen as important.

1 Kings 7:15

For he fashioned the two pillars of bronze, one was eighteen cubits high, and a line of twelve cubits compassed the other about.’

The wording is quaint, referring one measurement to one pillar and another to the other, with both measurements actually applying to both. This may have been with the intention of abbreviating the description, probably because he wanted the emphasis to be on the ‘heads’. The meaning is, however, clear. Each of the two pillars was made of bronze, and each was eighteen cubits (eight metres, twenty seven feet) high, a figure confirmed by 2 Kings 24:17. Their circumference is given as twelve cubits. That means that their diameter was about 1 Kings 3:8 cubits (just under two metres, or six feet). So they were large and impressive. That they were hollow is apparent from Jeremiah 52:21. In 2 Chronicles 3:15 they are stated to be ‘thirty five cubits high’, but that is almost certainly because the Chronicler was seeking to obtain a multiple of five, the sacred number for both the Tabernacle and the Temple, and accomplished it by giving the height of the two pillars added together. (Half a cubit each may have been seen as lost in putting them into their foundations, or it may simply have been a rounding off in order to obtain a multiple of five).

1 Kings 7:16

And he made two capitals of molten bronze, to set on the tops of the pillars: the height of the one capital was five cubits, and the height of the other capital was five cubits.’

On top of each pillar was set a ‘capital’ or ‘crown’ or ‘head’ of molten bronze which was five cubits in height. The same size ‘crown’ or ‘head’ was set on both pillars. The dual emphasis on them in contrast with the pillars, brings out their importance and significance. They were seen as acting as two witnesses.

In 2 Kings 25:17, at the time of the destruction of the Temple, they would be said to be three cubits in height. This was probably due to deterioration, followed by repair work carried out during the renovations of Jehoash (2 Kings 12:6 ff) and Josiah (2 Kings 22:3 ff), which reduced their size.

1 Kings 7:17

There were networks of latticework, and wreaths (spirals) of chain-work, for the capitals (heads) which were on the top of the pillars, seven for the one capital, and seven for the other capital.’

Around the ‘crowns’ or ‘heads’ on top of the pillars were wound nets of latticework and wreaths of chain work, presumably to form a kind of decoration. There were seven to each pillar.

1 Kings 7:18

So he made the pillars, and there were two rows round about on the one network, to cover the capitals that were on the top of the pomegranates, and so did he for the other capital.’

It is now again emphasised that ‘he made the pillars’, and it would appear that what follows, although in technical language, is intended to indicate that each network of lattice work had two rows of wreaths of chain work which covered the ‘heads’, this being above where the pomegranates (mentioned later) were engraved. And this occurred in both cases. (We must remember that the original listeners as it was read out would have been able to visualise the situation from memory).

1 Kings 7:19

And the capitals that were on the top of the pillars in the porch were of lily-work, four cubits.’

Furthermore, with regard to the top four of the five cubits of the heads, there was, as well as the other decorations, engraved lily-work (or lotus blossoms). The limitation would presumably be because the first cubit of the head was covered with the network and wreaths, and with the engraved pomegranates. The emphasis on the lily-work (see also 1 Kings 7:22) brings out its importance. In the Song of Solomon (e.g. 1 Kings 2:16; 1 Kings 6:2-3) the shepherd was seen as ‘feeding among the lilies’ which were a picture of a fruitful and pure Israel, and the beloved herself was seen as like a lily (e.g. 1 Kings 2:1-2; 1 Kings 4:5; 1 Kings 7:2). To go among the lilies was to leave behind the imperfections of city life and to enjoy the God-given freedom of Israel’s countryside. Lilies thus symbolised the purity of all that was best in Israel before it was spoiled by sophistication.

1 Kings 7:20

And there were capitals above also on the two pillars, close by the belly (bulbous part) which was beside the network, and the pomegranates were two hundred, in rows round about on the other capital.’

It is now repeated that the two pillars had ‘heads’ above them, and it would appear that the lower part of the heads were in a bulbous shape, with the network and engraved rows of pomegranates going round the heads above (or even on) the bulge. A similar bulbous shape at the lower part of such a ‘head’ has actually been found on free-standing columns at the Temple of Aphrodite in Paphos.

To sum up the picture which has been painstakingly built up (probably so that the hearer could see it being accomplished stage by stage), we have the large, stout pillars of bronze, which lead up to the ‘heads’, with the lower part of the ‘heads’ having a bulge in them. These were then decorated with networks of lattice work and wreaths of chain work, with rows of pomegranates in the first cubit, and lily work (or lotus blossoms) covering all but the first cubit.

1 Kings 7:21

And he set up the pillars at the porch of the temple. And he set up the right pillar, and called its name Yakin, and he set up the left pillar, and called its name Boaz.’

Having been made (which was a huge task in itself, comparable with Sennacherib’s mythical beasts cast in bronze) the pillars were then set up at the porch of the Temple, the one being named ‘He Establishes’ (Yakin) and the other being named ‘With Strength’ (Boaz). The verb ‘kun’, from which comes ‘yakin’, features prominently in Nathan’s prophecy concerning the Davidic house (2 Samuel 7:12-13; 2 Samuel 7:16, cited in 1 Kings 2:24, compare Isaiah 9:7), where the promise is that the throne of his kingship will be established for ever. (And Boaz was a well known ancestor of David and could stand for the Davidic house). So as already suggested above this may be intended to be an open proclamation that the house of David was ‘established -- with strength’ with the help of YHWH. And with their pomegranates and lily-work they may also possibly have been intended as a proclamation of the glory of the Creator, as the Creator of all that was beautiful (lily-work/lotus blossoms) and delightful and good to partake of (pomegranates).

This idea has been extended to suggest that the words yakin and be‘oz are the opening words of well known declarations about YHWH, e.g. ‘He will establish (yakin) the throne of David’ (compare 2 Samuel 13, 16) and ‘in the strength (be‘oz) of YHWH will the king rejoice’ (compare Psalms 21:1; Psalms 21:13).

Another suggestion which has gained some popularity is that fires were kept alight in one or both of the heads symbolising YHWH’s presence with His people, in the same way as He was present with them in the pillar of fire in the Exodus. There are indications of such pillars having fires in them elsewhere. Herodotus, for example, tells us that one of the pillars before the Temple of Baal in Tyre held a fire which glowed at night, and Hiram came from Tyre.

1 Kings 7:22

And on the top of the pillars was lily-work. So was the work of the pillars finished.

The fact that the heads were decorated with lily-work is again emphasised, stressing the connection of the heads with nature (or with lotus blossoms connecting them with life. The word for lily is similar to the Egyptian word for lotus-flower). And with all this the work of the pillars was said to have been brought to completion, a statement which indicates the first break in the passage (see also 1 Kings 7:40; 1 Kings 7:51, and summary above).

To sum up we may see these two pillars as declaring the glory of the Creator, the purity of the pure in Israel, and as underlining the certainty of YHWH’s everlasting covenant with the house of David.


Verses 23-26

The Fashioning Of The Molten Sea (1 Kings 7:23-26).

Like the fashioning of the two pillars previously the making of the molten sea was a great technical achievement, but we are given no information about how it was accomplished. It is simply a reminder of Hiram’s skill. Its huge size is a reminder of the vastness of God’s provision for cleansing for us in the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7).

Analysis.

a And he made the molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits compassed it round about (1 Kings 7:23).

b And under the brim of it round about there were spherical protrusions (knops) which compassed it, for ten cubits, compassing the sea round about. The spherical protrusions (knops) were in two rows, cast when it was cast (1 Kings 7:24).

c It stood on twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east, and the sea was set on them above, and all their hinder parts were inward (1 Kings 7:25).

b And it was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was wrought like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily (1 Kings 7:26 a).

a It held two thousand baths (1 Kings 7:26 b).

Note that in ‘a’ their size is emphasised, and the same in the parallel. In ‘b’ its decorations are emphasised, and in the parallel it is described decoratively. In ‘c’ and centrally it is described as set on twelve oxen.

1 Kings 7:23 And he made the molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits compassed it round about.’

The measurements of the ‘sea’ are given as ten cubits (just under five metres or fifteen feet) in diameter, five cubits in height and thirty cubits (fourteen metres or forty five feet) in circumference. If the thirty cubits was correct then calculating accurately we would have expected the diameter to be 9.55 (or nine and a half) cubits, but the ten cubits might have included the size of the rims, or may simply, like the thirty cubits, have been an approximate figure. Few Israelites if any would have known how to make the calculation, and the figures may well have been obtained by rough measurement.

(Living in a mathematically oriented world we tend to forget that in those days all but the simplest of numbers were not in common use. They had no need for them. Similarly even in our day anthropologists and missionaries have often discovered that among many even sophisticated primitive tribes ‘numbers’ were almost meaningless).

1 Kings 7:24

And under the brim of it round about there were spherical protrusions which compassed it, for ten cubits, compassing the sea round about. The spherical protrusions were in two rows, cast when it was cast.’

This probably mean that there were spherical protrusions on each side, each group or row covering five cubits, which were cast when the bowl was cast as an integral part of the bowl. 2 Chronicles 4:3 suggests that these protrusions were in the shape of ‘oxen’, and thus ox heads (or even small oxen). Compare the similar feature on the large basin found at Amathus mentioned above. The ox was a symbol of strength.

1 Kings 7:25

It stood on twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west (yam), and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east, and the sea was set on them above, and all their hinder parts were inward.’

The bowl was stood on twelve representations of oxen looking outwards, three looking north, three looking west (‘yam’ - one of the regular uses of yam), three looking south, three looking east. Comparison with Numbers 2 might suggest a comparison with the twelve tribes of Israel, although there the order is reversed as east, south, west, north. The idea might be that from the Temple Israel could look out in all directions without fear, because they were the strong ones of YHWH, and east may have been put last because that was where the most serious enemies were. The oxen also symbolise the tame and controlled as opposed to the wild (compare the lions and oxen depicted elsewhere - 1 Kings 7:29).

1 Kings 7:26

And it was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was wrought like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held two thousand baths.’

The bronze of which the bowl was constituted was a handbreadth thick (the width of the hand at the base of four fingers, therefore around 1 Kings 7:33 centimetres or three inches), with its brim wrought like the brim of a cup (bent outwards), and like the flower of a lily. This latter was possibly decoration, although it may simply indicate ‘spread out’. And the whole held water measuring two thousand baths, which at 1 bath = 22 litres (per a measuring vessel which has been discovered, compare Ezekiel 45:10-11) equals about eleven and a half thousand gallons. The figure would presumably have been calculated by pouring water into the bowl from vessels and assessing accordingly, and would not therefore necessarily be strictly accurate in modern terms.

2 Chronicles 4:5 has ‘three thousand baths’. But the Chronicler regularly alters numbers so as to give a specific impression and may here simply be seeking to indicate the ‘perfect completeness’ of the content. Three was the number of completeness, and also indicated ‘the many’ as opposed to ‘the few’ (see 1 Kings 17:12, where ‘two’ indicated ‘a few’), while ‘a thousand’ is often a vague number simply indicating a great many (compare ‘to a thousand generations’ - Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalms 105:8). Alternately he might have been using a different measurement for a bath. The ‘royal bath’, for example, was different in capacity from a common bath, and measurements altered over time. Or he may simply have been indicating what it held when completely full to the brim, with the writer here in Kings indicating how much was actually put into it. Note again the mention of the lily which was a symbol of purity.


Verses 23-40

Hiram Fashions The Molten Sea And The Ten Lavers With Their Instruments (1 Kings 7:23-40).

Hiram also fashioned the molten Sea, or Sea made of cast-work. The Hebrew word ‘sea’ (yam) is nowhere else in Scripture used of anything other than literal large expanses of water or as an indicator of ‘the west’ (because the Great (Mediterranean) Sea was to the west of Palestine, see 1 Kings 7:25). Thus its occurrence in this connection is unique in the Old Testament. In post Biblical Hebrew it would be used of settling tanks. But we can see why the Israelites, who were not used to such a large artificial expanse of water, and were filled with admiration at it, might call it a ‘sea’ of water (compare how they would later call the lake of Galilee ‘a sea’). The word ‘molten’ signifies that it was cast-work. The same ‘sea’ is again mentioned in 2 Chronicles 4:2-10 where we are told that ‘the sea was for the priests to wash in’ (1 Kings 7:6). We are not told how they accessed it, for it was five cubits high (1 Kings 2:3 metres, about seven and a half feet). Perhaps there was a kind of tap system by which water could be drawn off. But it clearly indicated the availability of abundant cleansing.

The suggestion that it symbolised the control of ‘chaos’ by YHWH (in the Psalms YHWH never fights the sea, He always controls it with His sovereign word and power - Psalms 74:12-14; Psalms 89:9-10; Psalms 93:3-4; Psalms 98:7-9; Psalms 104:9; compare Job 38:11) is attractive but probably ungrounded. There is nowhere any hint of chaos in connection with it. Compare how in Revelation 4:6 the sea had become a solid because in Heaven no cleansing was needed.

Artificial water sources were found in other temples. The nearest comparison is a large stone basin from Amathus in Cyprus, which Isaiah 2:2 metres in diameter and 1.85 metres high, specific purpose unknown. It has four false handles in relief, circling the heads of bulls (compare 1 Kings 7:24 in the light of 2 Chronicles 4:3). There was also an artificial sea connected with the temple of Marduk in Babylon which was associated with a monster, and therefore probably connected by them with Chaos. But in view of the fact that the Tabernacle had a laver, or large bowl on a base, filled with water, for the priests to wash in (Exodus 30:17-21), and that Solomon undoubtedly loved magnifying things up (consider the cherubim in the Most Holy Place), it is most probable that that is how the molten Sea was looked at in Israel, especially in view of 2 Chronicles 4:6. It was thus to be seen as the place of lavish provision for cleansing, much needed in view of Solomon’s tendency for multiple sacrifices which would involve many priests in relays. It would also probably be used to top up the ten ‘bowls on wheels’ described below, which according to the Chronicler were for washing the parts of the sacrifices (e.g. Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 8:21; etc.).


Verses 27-37

The Fashioning Of The Bases For The Lavers (1 Kings 7:27-37).

As well as ‘the Sea’ at which priest could wash their hands and feet, there were also to be ten large wash bowls, situated on ten moveable bases, which were to be used for the purpose of washing parts of the sacrifices. They could be filled from the ‘sea’ and wheeled over to the altar for that purpose. The bases were somewhat complicated, described in technical language, and are explained first.

A ‘trolley’ for carrying bowls, which must have been something similar to these although much smaller, was discovered at Larnaka in Cyprus. It was a small bronze carriage, mounted on four wheels, with the square upper frame supporting a cylindrical ring which was adapted to receive rounded vessels. These ones in Solomon’s Temple were much larger. Another example was found at Enkomi, and a similar framework on a base but without the wheels was discovered at Megiddo.

Analysis.

a And he made the ten bases of bronze. Four cubits was the length of one base, and four cubits its breadth, and three cubits its height (1 Kings 7:27).

b And the work of the bases was on this manner, they had panels, and there were panels between the ledges, and on the panels that were between the ledges were lions, oxen, and cherubim (1 Kings 7:28).

c And upon the ledges there was a pedestal above, and beneath the lions and oxen were wreaths of hanging work (1 Kings 7:29).

d And every base had four bronze wheels, and axles of bronze, and its four feet had undersetters. Beneath the laver were the undersetters molten, with wreaths at the side of each (1 Kings 7:30).

e And the mouth of it within the capital and above was a cubit, and its mouth was round after the work of a pedestal, a cubit and a half, and also on the mouth of it were gravings, and their panels were foursquare, not round (1 Kings 7:31).

d And the four wheels were underneath the panels, and the axletrees of the wheels were in the base, and the height of a wheel was a cubit and half a cubit. And the work of the wheels was like the work of a chariot wheel, their axletrees, and their felloes, and their spokes, and their naves, were all molten. And there were four undersetters at the four corners of each base. Its undersetters were of the base itself (1 Kings 7:32-34).

c And in the top of the base was there a round compass half a cubit high; and on the top of the base were its stays and its panels were of the same (1 Kings 7:35).

b And on the plates of its stays, and on its panels, he engraved cherubim, lions, and palm-trees, according to the space of each, with wreaths round about (1 Kings 7:36).

a After this manner he made the ten bases. All of them had one casting, one measure, and one form (1 Kings 7:37).

Note that in ‘a’ he made the ten bases and in the parallel how he made the ten bases is referred to. In ‘b’ the panels were decorated with lions, oxen and Cherubim, and in the parallel were decorations of lions, oxen and palm trees. In ‘c’ the ‘pedestal above’ is referred to, and in the parallel details of that pedestal are given. In ‘d’ the wheels and undersetters are indicated, and in the parallel they are described. Central in ‘e’ is the description of the cylindrical ‘mouth’ which will hold the bowls of water.

1 Kings 7:27

And he made the ten bases of bronze. Four cubits was the length of one base, and four cubits its breadth, and three cubits its height.’

The bases were made of bronze, and were four cubits by four cubits (foursquare), and three cubits in height. They would need to be foursquare (rather than oblong) to hold the four cubit bowls in place.

1 Kings 7:28-29

And the work of the bases was on this manner, they had panels, and there were panels between the ledges, and on the panels that were between the ledges were lions, oxen, and cherubim, and upon the ledges there was a pedestal above, and beneath the lions and oxen were spiral patterns of hanging work.’

The bases were panelled between the two ledges at top and bottom, and on these panels were depictions of lions, oxen and cherubim. Above the top ledge was a pedestal which would hold the bowl. And beneath the representations of the lions and oxen were spiral patterns of hanging work.

It will be noted that apart from the Cherubim no images of living creatures were allowed within the Sanctuary itself. They could too easily be open to the wrong interpretation. But here in the Inner court they were a reminder that these creatures were a part of God’s creation, covering heavenly beings (the Cherubim), wild beasts (the lions) and domestic animals (the oxen). The Larnaka laver stand mentioned above was decorated with sphinxes (the pagan equivalent to Cherubim) and stylised palm trees.

1 Kings 7:30

And every base had four bronze wheels, and axles of bronze, and its four feet had undersetters. Beneath the laver were the undersetters molten, with spiral patterns at the side of each.’

Each of the bases had four wheels to them, fixed on axles of bronze, and the four legs in which the axles were set had undersetters (literally ‘shoulders’ ) on them at the top which held up the basin, with spiral patterns (wreaths) by each one.

1 Kings 7:31

And the mouth of it within the capital and above was a cubit, and its mouth was round after the work of a pedestal, a cubit and a half, and also on the mouth of it were gravings, and their panels were foursquare, not round.’

The ‘mouth’ would be the circular frame which was designed to hold the basin (which was four cubits in diameter). It was ‘round in the same way as a stand (or pedestal)’. This might suggest that above the main square base was a round pedestal or stand which could be described as ‘the head (or capital)’ (see 1 Kings 7:29) and held the circular framework, and was itself a cubit and a half above the main frame. The circular frame then rose one cubit above the top framework (the capital), no doubt by means of struts. Alternatively the top pedestal rose a cubit and a half above the main framework, with the circular frame sunk half a cubit within it, thus being one cubit above the main base. The circular frame was decorated with engravings, while the panels below on the main base (in 1 Kings 7:32 the four wheels are below the panels) were foursquare, not round.

Alternatively ‘in the same way as a pedestal’ may be a foreshortening for ‘in the same way as the wheels in the pedestal’, for the wheels were themselves a cubit and a half (1 Kings 7:32). That would involve the word ‘pedestal’ being applied both to the top part of the whole, and to the whole, which is not impossible.

1 Kings 7:32

And the four wheels were underneath the panels, and the axletrees of the wheels were in the base, and the height of a wheel was a cubit and half a cubit.’

The axle trees of the wheels were fitted into the base in such a way that they were below the panels, and thus did not hide them, and each wheel was a cubit and a half (three quarters of a metre, two foot three inches) in diameter.

1 Kings 7:33

And the work of the wheels was like the work of a chariot wheel, their axletrees, and their felloes, and their spokes, and their naves, were all molten.’

The wheels were designed in a similar way to chariot wheels, except that all the parts of them were of cast work.

1 Kings 7:34

And there were four undersetters at the four corners of each base. Its undersetters were of the base itself.’

These four undersetters were mentioned in 1 Kings 7:30, going from corner to corner at the top of the base and strengthening the base, and holding the cylindrical frame, being in fact cast as a part of the base.

1 Kings 7:35

And in the top of the base was there a round compass half a cubit high; and on the top of the base were its stays and its panels were of the same.’

Here we have an abbreviated summary of the whole. If the suggestion that the top pedestal or stand rose one and a half cubits above the main base and that the circular frame for holding the bowls was sunk by half a cubit so that it was one cubit above the main base is correct (see 1 Kings 7:31), that would explain the half cubit here which can then be seen as describing the height of the rounded pedestal above the circular frame. Also on top of the base were its stays, and its panels were part of the base.

1 Kings 7:36

And on the plates of its stays, and on its panels, he engraved cherubim, lions, and palm-trees, according to the space of each, with wreaths round about.’

And on the plates connected with the stays, and on the panels of the base, were engraved Cherubim, lions and palm trees, in accordance with the mount of space that they provided. The palm trees may have been engraved only on the stays, as they were not earlier mentioned as on the panels. Sphinxes and palm trees were similarly found on the Larnaka laver.

1 Kings 7:37

After this manner he made the ten bases. All of them had one casting, one measure, and one form.’

So this was the way in which he made the ten bases, and they were all made in exactly the same way, and to the same measurement, and in the same shape.


Verse 38-39

The Making Of The Ten Lavers To Be Placed On The Bases And The Placing Of The Bases And The Sea In The Temple (1 Kings 7:38-39).

Ten large basins or lavers were now made to fit into the bases, and the bases with their basins, and the molten Sea, then took their place in the Inner court. The number ten, made up of two fives, is a covenant number, and the idea here may well have been one for each of the commandments.

Analysis.

a And he made ten lavers of bronze. One laver contained forty baths, and every laver was four cubits, and on every one of the ten bases one laver (1 Kings 7:38).

b And he set the bases, five on the right side of the house, and five on the left side of the house (1 Kings 7:39 a).

a And he set the sea on the right side of the house eastward, toward the south (1 Kings 7:39 b).

In ‘a’ the lavers are described, and in the parallel the Sea is mentioned which was similar to a large laver. In ‘b’ between them are the bases for the lavers and where they were placed.

1 Kings 7:38

And he made ten lavers of bronze. One laver contained forty baths, and every laver was four cubits, and on every one of the ten bases one laver.’

Hiram then made ten very large bowls of bronze for holding water (ten lavers). Each bowl had the capacity to hold forty baths (probably 880 litres, 232 gallons) of water, although they would not necessarily all be filled to the brim. Each bowl was four cubits in diameter (just under two metres/ six feet), and each base held one bowl. As we know the bases were four cubits foursquare (1 Kings 7:27).

1 Kings 7:39

And he set the bases, five on the right side of the house, and five on the left side of the house, and he set the sea on the right side of the house eastward, toward the south.’

And the bases were placed in two rows of five, five to the right of the house and five to the left, within the Inner court. This may indicate that they were placed on the north side and the south side of the Temple, or possibly that they were in front of the Temple, but half on the right and half on the left. The latter alternative would make them more readily available to those offering sacrifices, but the fact that they were on wheels may mean that they were dragged into position when required. The molten sea was placed on the right side of the house to the south east, and was, of course, static.

The comparatively huge size of all these constructions will easily be recognised (something typical of Solomon’s grandiose Temple), and we do not know how easily the laver bases could be moved, but the fact that they were on wheels suggests that they were moved so as to make them accessible when they were required. While we do not need to assume that the basins were always filled to the brim, each laver assembly was nonetheless very heavy (although lacking sufficient information about them we do not know quite how heavy). But this thought daunts us far more than it did them, for the ancients were experts at devising ways by which heavy equipment could be moved (witness the transport of the huge stones, the putting into place of the large pillars, etc. and they could well have been dragged into place using ropes simply by priest-power (or Temple servant-power)


Verse 40

The Final Summary Concerning The Lavers and Their Implements (1 Kings 7:40).

This summary along with 1 Kings 7:13-14 forms an inclusio. It stresses the conclusion by Hiram of the work commenced in 1 Kings 7:13-14.

1 Kings 7:40

And Hiram made the lavers, and the shovels, and the basins. So Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he wrought for king Solomon in the house of YHWH.’

This second subsection is now closed off by a summary which explains that Hiram (with his assistants) also made both the lavers and all the necessary utensils, having thus made an end of doing all the work that he wrought for king Solomon in the house of YHWH. Previously we had been told that he had finished the work on the pillars (1 Kings 7:22). Thus the emphasis here is mainly on the molten sea and the lavers, but bringing within it everything else that he had made. And here Hiram bows out (apart from a brief mention). From this point on, concluding with the final statement of what Solomon had accomplished in 1 Kings 7:51, we find a summary of what has gone before, together with further necessary additions to the Temple furniture, with the main emphasis being laid on what king Solomon himself had achieved. In the end it was to be seen as his achievement.

It will be noted that Hiram’s work was limited to the furniture in the Inner court. He is not connected by the writer with the furniture within the inner Sanctuary. Thus we see the continual inference that Hiram was not quite the thing. We must bear in mind that when Kings was finalised it was at a time when Israel were very much aware of what syncretism and compromise had done to Israel and Judah.


Verses 41-51

Summary Of The Great Achievement Of Solomon (1 Kings 7:41-51).

We now have summarised Solomon’s great achievement. The summary begins with a review of all that Hiram had ‘made for king Solomon’ out of burnished bronze, and the site on which the work was done, and then details further the items of gold which were for the Sanctuary itself, and the work is imputed to Solomon.

Analysis.

a Description of all that Hiram had made and finished for king Solomon in the house of YHWH, which were of bronze (1 Kings 7:41-45).

b The site where the bronzework was made, and its huge quantity so that it could not be weighed (1 Kings 7:46-47).

c Solomon made all the vessels in the house of YHWH (1 Kings 7:48 a).

b The description of all that was made for the inner Sanctuary, which was made of gold (1 Kings 7:48-50).

a Solomon finished all the work that he wrought in the house of YHWH, and brought in all the gold, silver and treasures that David had dedicated to YHWH.

Not the contrast between what was made by Hiram on Solomon’s behalf, and what was ‘made by Solomon’. On the one hand all was bronze, on the other all was gold.

1 Kings 7:41-45

The two pillars, and the two bowls of the capitals (the rounded bulge on the heads) that were on the top of the pillars, and the two networks to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the pillars, and the four hundred pomegranates for the two networks; two rows of pomegranates for each network, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were upon the pillars, and the ten bases, and the ten lavers on the bases, and the one sea, and the twelve oxen under the sea, and the pots, and the shovels, and the basins, even all these vessels, which Hiram made for king Solomon, in the house of YHWH, were of burnished bronze.’

We have here a summary of all that Hiram had made for Solomon which was for the house of YHWH. Note the emphasis on the ‘heads’ of the pillars which were clearly seen as important, and the reference to the globular feature mentioned earlier. The pillars, with their heads, the bases, the lavers and the sea have all been described above. The ‘pots’ were the large cauldrons used for cooking the meat from the offerings when it could be eaten (Leviticus 7:15-17). The shovels were for dealing with the ashes of the altar, and the basins, or sprinkling bowls, were for use in sprinkling blood and water.

1 Kings 7:46

In the plain (circle) of the Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan.’

The work was performed in clay ground (‘thickening of the earth’) near the Jordan. The clay was necessary for the smelting work, and the Jordan provided plenty of water. The firing of large, shaped cores filled with molten metal was a common, but intricate, ancient procedure testified to both in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and with the clay for moulds, the forests for fuel, the availability for water in the Jordan, and the suitable north wind this area was ripe for the processes. Note how all the emphasis has now turned on ‘the king’ himself. From now on all the work will be seen as his.

All these things were made in the plain or circle of the Jordan (and thus not in the precincts of the Temple) over a fairly wide area. ‘Circle’ probably here only indicates ‘neighbourhood, district’. They would then all have to be taken over the mountain roads to Jerusalem. The effort must have been prodigious.

Succoth was on the east side of the Jordan, probably just north of the Jabbok, and excavations of a site there have revealed that it was a centre for metallurgy, complete with furnaces outside the city wall. But even though we may not be sure of the site, the whole area gives evidence of having been involved in metal smelting. Zarethan was probably on the west bank of the Jordan. Thus the cities are merely indications of the region in which all this happened, and we do not know whether the work was carried out on the east bank or the west bank (or both).

1 Kings 7:47

And Solomon left all the vessels unweighed, because they were such a great many. The weight of the bronze could not be found out.’

The weight of the bronze used was so much that there was no point in trying to weight it, so that no accurate figure could be recorded in the king’s annals. This draws out the value of what was involved.

1 Kings 7:48

And Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of YHWH.’

Solomon also made all the vessels that were in the house of YHWH. In other words all was done under his direction, with the gold that was provided by him. Nothing was spared in honouring the house of YHWH. At this point YHWH had all his heart. The main reason why what follows is not presented in so much detail is precisely because the items were well known from the past and were on the whole made in accordance with the instructions given in the Torah (Instruction of Moses). And it may well be that Solomon did not want to draw attention to any alterations he made as regards the sacred objects.

1 Kings 7:48 b ‘The golden altar, and the table on which the showbread was, of gold.’

First were the golden altar of incense (made of cedar-covered stone and then covered with gold), and the table on which the showbread would be placed. The Ark itself could not, of course, be altered or replaced. All was covered in gold. They were presumably made in accordance with the instructions in the Torah, in the end replacing the ones at present in the Tabernacle.

There is no good reason for suggesting that the altar of incense was not yet a part of the Holy Place. Such altars have been evidenced in many places, and it would have been extremely unusual for there not to be one in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. If incense was being offered by Solomon in high places (1 Kings 3:3), it would certainly be offered in the Temple. Indeed the first question of any ancient priest when considering the furnishings of the Temple would have been, ‘where do you have the altar of incense?’ For details and the prior existence of the altar of incense see 1 Kings 6:20; Exodus 30:1-10; Exodus 30:27; Exodus 31:8; Exodus 35:15; Exodus 37:25; Exodus 39:38; Exodus 40:5; Exodus 40:26-27; Leviticus 10:1; Leviticus 16:12-13; Numbers 4:16; Numbers 16:7-40; Deuteronomy 33:10; 1 Samuel 2:28.

Solomon did in fact eventually arrange for ten tables to be made, which would range five and five at each side of the Holy Place (2 Chronicles 4:8), although that may have been later. However, there was only one table of showbread.

1 Kings 7:49

And the lampstands, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the inner room, of pure gold; and the flower, and the lamps, and the tongs, of gold.’

And he made ten new lampstands, five on the right side of the inner sanctuary, and five on the left, in front of the Inner Room, together with the flower of each lampstand, and the lamps, and the tongs. All was of pure gold.

Ten lampstands was an innovation, but partly required by the much larger Holy Place (compare Jeremiah 52:19; 2 Chronicles 4:7). ‘Five and five’ were covenant numbers. Thus it appears that to Solomon they indicated the light of the covenant (Psalms 119:105), each lamp possibly indicating a commandment. Had he seen them as indicating Israel there would presumably have been twelve. Had he seen them as representing God as his and the nation’s light (Psalms 27:1) there would surely only have been one. The ten may also have been intended to parallel the ten lavers. The ‘flower’ (ornamental base?) , if connected with the lampstands, is in the singular, indicating ‘each flower’.

1 Kings 7:50

And the cups, and the snuffers, and the basins, and the spoons, and the firepans, of pure gold; and the hinges, both for the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the house, that is, of the temple, of gold.’

And the same applied to all the vessels used in the Holy Place, and to the hinges of the very doors, both the inner doors of the Holy Place and the outer doors of the Temple. All were made with gold. It was unquestionably splendid, and the recording of it was in order to bring out Solomon’s glory. It will, however, be noticed that it was not in obedience to the instructions given through Moses in the Torah where there was supposed to be a gradual movement from bronze, to silver, to gold as the Most Holy Place was approached.. We have here already the seeds of the reason for his final failure. Outward show and ostentation was considered of more value than obedience.

The gold used by Solomon may sound vast, but it was no vaster than was used by the Egyptian Osorkon I of Egypt to the gods of Egypt barely ten years after Solomon’s death. During the first four years of his reign, this king presented a total of two million deben weight of silver (about 220 tons) and another 2,300,000 deben weight of silver and gold (some 250 tons) to the gods, largely in the form of precious objects (vessels, statuary, etc.). Such huge gifts to their deity were seen as commonplace by great monarchs. And the covering of places and sacred objects in gold was a regular feature of the lives of many ancient monarchs. In Egypt there were temples which had silver and gold covered floors and stairways, while Queen Hatshepsut capped and plated her giant obelisks (97 feet high) with gold and electrum . Rameses II’s skilled workmen were also known to have been responsible for gold-covered temple-doors and sacred barques.

1 Kings 7:51

Thus all the work that king Solomon wrought in the house of YHWH was finished. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated, even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, and put them in the treasuries of the house of YHWH.’

All the embellishments and furniture for the house of YHWH were now complete and are described as ‘wrought’ by king Solomon. In other words, whoever might have fashioned them the credit was to go to Solomon. And once all was in place Solomon brought into the sanctuary all the gifts that David had sanctified to YHWH (2 Samuel 8:11), the spoils that had been gathered in fighting a holy war against the surrounding nations who had sought to infringe on the rights of YHWH. YHWH now had His splendid sanctuary, which contained the treasures of the nations. Solomon no doubt felt very satisfied that he had done all that could be expected of him. Now he determined to dedicate it to YHWH with equal splendour.

We should not be surprised by the amounts of gold at Solomon’s disposal. He had not only had available to him the rich spoils from David’s continual victories, which must have been huge in themselves, and the fruits of the regular tribute which David had received from vassal states, but David had no doubt made full use of his control of all the trade routes between Mesopotamia, Egypt and Arabia to exact maximum tolls. On top of all this was the regular contribution made to state coffers by taxation. And we need not doubt that Solomon had continued to benefit from and expand on all these sources.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 7:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-kings-7.html. 2013.

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