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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary

1 Kings 8

 

 

Verses 1-11

THE TEMPLE WORSHIP

1 Kings 8:1-11

"Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these. Behold, ye trust m lying words, that cannot profit."

- Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 7:8

THE actual Temple building, apart from its spacious courts, was neither for worshippers nor for priests, neither for sacrifice nor for prayer. It existed only for symbolism and, at least: in later days, for expiation. No prayer was offered in the sanctuary. The propitiatory was the symbol of expiation, but even after the introduction of the Day of Atonement the atoning blood was only carried into it once a year.

All the worship was in the outer court, and consisted mainly,

(1) of praise and

(2) of offerings. Both were prominent in the Dedication Festival.

"It is written," said our Lord, "My house shall be called a House, of Prayer, but ye have made it a den of robbers." The quotation is from the later Isaiah, and represents a happy advance in spiritual religion. Among the details of the Levitic Tabernacle no mention is made of prayer, though it was symbolized both in the incense and in the sacrifices which have been called "unspoken prayers." "Let my prayer be set forth as incense," says the Psalmist, "and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." In the New Testament we read that "the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense." But during the whole history of the first Temple we only hear-and that very incidentally-of private prayer in the Temple. Solomon’s prayer was public, and combined prayer with praises and benedictions. But no fragments of Jewish liturgies have come down to us which we can with any probability refer to the days of the kings. The Psalms which most clearly belong to the Temple service are mainly services of praise.

In the mind of the people the sacrifices were undoubtedly the main part of the Temple ritual. This fact was specially emphasized by the scene which marked the Festival of the Dedication.

It is difficult to imagine a scene which to our unaccustomed senses would have been more revolting than the holocausts of a great Jewish Festival like that of Solomon’s Dedication. As a rule the daily sacrifices, exclusively of such as might be brought by private worshippers, were the lambs slain at morning and evening. Yet Maimonides gives us the very material and unpoetic suggestion that the incense used was to obviate the effluvium of animal sacrifice. The suggestion is unworthy of the great Rabbi’s ability, and is wholly incorrect; but it reminds us of the almost terrible fact that, often and often, the Temple must have been converted into one huge and abhorrent abattoir, swimming with the blood of slaughtered victims, and rendered intolerably repulsive by heaps of bloody skins and masses of offal. The smell of burning flesh, the swift putrescence caused by the tropic heat, the unlovely accompaniments of swarms of flies, and ministers with blood-drenched robes would have been inconceivably disagreeable to our Western training-for no one will believe the continuous miracle invented by the Rabbis, who declare that no fly was ever seen in the Temple, and no flesh ever grew corrupt. No doubt the brazen sea and the movable caldrons were in incessant requisition, and there were provisions for vast storages of water. These could have produced a very small mitigation of the accompanying pollutions during a festival which transformed the great court of the Temple into the reeking shambles and the charnel-house of sheep and oxen "which could not be told nor numbered for multitude."

Had such spectacles been frequent, we should surely have had to say of the people of Jerusalem as Sir Monier Williams says of the ancient Hindus, "The land was saturated with blood, and people became wearied and disgusted with slaughtered sacrifices and sacrificing priests." What infinite, and what revolting labor, must have been involved in the right burning of "the two kidneys and the fat," and the due disposition of the "inwards" of all these holocausts! The groaning brazen altar, vast as it was, failed to meet the requirements of the service, and apparently a multitude of other altars were extemporized for the occasion.

When the festival was over God appeared to Solomon in vision, as He had done at Gibeon. So far Solomon had not gravely or consciously deflected from the ideal of a theocratic king. Anything which had been worldly or mistaken in his policy-the oppression into which he had been led, the heathen alliances which he had formed, his crowded harem, his evident fondness for material splendor which carried with it the peril of selfish pride-were only signs of partial knowledge and human frailty. His heart was still, on the whole, right with God. He was once more assured in nightly vision that his prayer and supplication were accepted. The promise was renewed that if he would walk m integrity and uprightness his throne should be established for ever; but that if he or his children swerved into apostasy Israel should be driven into exile, and as a warning to all lands, "this house, which have hallowed for My name, will I cast out of My sight, and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people." Here, then we are brought face to face with problems which arise from the whole system of worship in the Old Dispensation. Whatever it was, to whatever extent it was really carried out and was not merely theoretical, at whatever date its separate elements originated, and however clear it is that it, has utterly passed away, there must have been certain ideas underlying it which are worthy of our study.

1. Of the element of praise supported by music, we need say but little. It is a natural mode of expressing the joy and gratitude which fill the heart of man in contemplating the manifold mercies of God. For this reason the pages of Scripture ring with religious music from the earliest to the latest age. We are told in the Chronicles that triumphant praise was largely introduced into the great festival services, and that the Temple possessed a great organization for vocal and orchestral music. David was not only a poet, but an inventor of musical instruments. {Amos 6:5, 1 Chronicles 23:5} Fifteen musical instruments are mentioned in the Bible, and five of them in the Pentateuch. Most important among them are cymbals, flutes, silver trumpets, rams’ horns, the harp (Kinnor) and the ten-stringed lute (Nevel). The remark of Josephus that Solomon provided 40, 000 harps and lutes and 200, 000 silver trumpets is marked by that disease of exaggeration which seems to infect the mind of all later Jewish writers when they look back with yearning to the vanished glories of their past. There can, however, be no doubt that the orchestra was amply supplied, and that there was a very numerous and well-trained choir. We read in the Psalms and elsewhere of tunes which they were trained to sing. Such tunes were "The Well," and "The Bow," and "The Gazelle of the morning," and "All my fresh springs shall be in Thee," and "Die for the son" (Muth-labben). In the second Temple female singers were admitted; {Ezra 2:65 Nehemiah 7:67 Psalms 87:7} in Herod’s Temple Levite choir-boys took their place. The singing was often antiphonal. Some of the music still used in the synagogue must date from these times, and there is no reason to doubt that in the so-called Gregorian tones we have preserved to us a close approximation to the ancient hymnody of the Temple. This element of ancient worship calls for no remark. It is a religious instinct to use music in the service of God; and perhaps the imagination of St. John in the Revelation, when he describes the rapture of the heavenly host pouring forth the chant "Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth," was colored by reminiscences of gorgeous functions in which he had taken part on the "Mountain of the House."

2. When we proceed to speak of the Priesthood we are met by difficulties, to which we have already alluded, as to the date of the varying regulations respecting it. "It would be difficult," says Dr. Edersheim, "to conceive arrangements more thoroughly or consistently opposed to what are commonly called ‘priestly pretensions’ than those of the Old Testament." According to the true ideal, Israel was to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation"; {Exodus 19:5-6} but the institution of ministering priests was of course a necessity, and the Jewish Priesthood, which is now utterly abrogated, was or gradually became, representative. Representatively they had to mediate between God and Israel, and typically to symbolize the "holiness," i.e., the consecration of the Chosen People. Hence they were required to be free from every bodily blemish. It was regarded as a deadly offence for any one of them to officiate without scrupulous safeguard against every ceremonial defilement, and they were specially adorned and anointed for their office. They were an extremely numerous body, and from the days of David are said to have been divided into twenty-four courses. They were assisted by an army of attendant Levites, also divided into twenty-four courses, who acted as the cleansers and keepers of the Temple. But the distinction of priests and Levites does not seem to be older than "the Priestly Code," and criticism has all but demonstrated that the sections of the Pentateuch known by that name belong, in their present form, not to the age of Moses, but to the age of the successors of Ezekiel. The elaborate priestly and Levitic arrangements ascribed to the days of Aaron by the chronicler, who wrote six hundred years after David’s day, are unknown to the writers of the Book of Kings.

In daily life they wore no distinctive dress. In the Temple service, all the year round, their vestments were of the simplest. They were of white byssus to typify innocence, {Revelation 15:6} and four in number to indicate completeness. They consisted of a turban, breeches, and seamless coat of white linen, together with a girdle, symbolic of zeal and activity, which was assumed during actual ministrations. {Comp. Revelation 1:13; Revelation 15:6} The only magnificent vestments were those worn for a few hours by the high priest once a year on the Great Day of Atonement. These "golden vestments" were eight in number. To the ordinary robes were added the robe of the ephod (Meil) of dark blue, with seventy-two golden bells, and pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet; a jeweled pectoral containing the Urim and Thummim; the miter; and the golden frontlet (Ziz), with its inscription of "Holiness to the Lord." The ideal type was fulfilled, and the poor shadows abolished forever, by Him of whom it is said, "Such a high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners."

The priests were poor; they were very often entirely unlettered; they seem to have had for many centuries but little influence on the moral and spiritual life of the people. Hardly any good is recorded of them as a body throughout the four hundred and ten years during which the first Temple stood, as very little good had been recorded of them in the earlier ages, and not much in the ages which were to follow. We read of scarcely a single moral protest or spiritual awakenment which had its origin in the priestly body. Their temptation was to be absorbed in their elaborate ceremonials. As these differed but little from the ritual functions of surrounding heathendom they seem to have relapsed into apostasy with shameful readiness, and to have submitted without opposition to the idolatrous aberrations of king after king, even to the extent of admitting the most monstrous idols and the most abhorrent pollutions into the sacred precincts of the Temple, which it was their work to guard. When a prophet arose out of their own supine and torpid ranks he invariably counted his brethren amongst his deadliest antagonists. They ridiculed him as they ridiculed Isaiah; they smote him on the cheek as they smote Jeremiah. The only thing which roused them was the spirit of revolt against their vapid ceremonialism, and their abject obedience to kings. The Presbyterate could have no worse ideal, and could follow no more pernicious example, than that of the Jewish priesthood. The days of their most rigid ritualism were the days also of their most desperate moral blindness. The crimes of their order culminated when they combined, as one man: under their high priest Caiaphas and their sagan Annas to reject Christ for Barabbas, and to hand over to the Gentiles for crucifixion the Messiah of their nation, the Lord of Life.


Verses 1-66

THE GRADUAL GROWTH OF THE LEVITIC RITUAL

1 Kings 8:1-66

"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice."

- 1 Samuel 15:22

BEFORE we enter on the subject of the Temple worship, it is necessary to emphasize a fact which will meet us again and again in many forms as we consider the history of the Chosen People: It is the amazing ignorance which seems to have prevailed among them for centuries as to the most central and decisive elements of nearly the whole of the Mosaic law as we now read it in the Pentateuch.

1. Take, for instance, the law of a central sanctuary. It is strongly laid down, and incessantly insisted on, throughout the Book of Deuteronony. Yet that law does not seem to have been so much as noticed by any of the earlier prophets or judges, or by Saul, or by David. The judges and early kings offer sacrifices at any place which they regard as sacred-Bochim, Ophrah, Mizpeh, Gilgal, Bethel, Bethlehem, etc. { 2:5, 6:24, 8:27, 20:1, 21:2; 2:4 1 Samuel 7:9, 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 7:11; 1 Samuel 7:15, etc.} The rule of one place for sacrifice was not regarded for a moment by the kings of the Northern Kingdom. The transgression of it was not made a subject of complaint by Elijah, Elisha, or any of the earlier prophets. Not one of the kings, even of the most pious kings-Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham-rigidly enforced it until the reign of Josiah. The law seems to have remained an absolutely dead letter for hundreds of years. Now this would be amply accounted for if the Deuteronomic and Levitic Codes only belonged in reality to the days of Josiah and of the Exile: for in "the Book of the Covenant," {Exodus 24:7} which is the most ancient part of these codes, and comprises Exodus 20:1-26 - Exodus 28:33, and is briefly repeated in Exodus 34:10-28, there is not only no insistence on a central shrine, but many of the regulations would {Exodus} have been rendered impossible had such a shrine existed (e.g., Exodus 21:6, Exodus 22:7-8, where "the judges" should be "God," as in the R.V). Indeed, so far from insistence on one Temple, we expressly read, {Exodus 20:24} "An altar of earth shall thou make Me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings and thy peace offerings, thy sheep and thine oxen, in all places where I record My name, and I will come unto thee and bless thee."

2. Again, the Book of Leviticus lays down a singularly developed code of ritual, "extending to the minutest details of worship and of life." Yet there is scarcely the shadow of a trace of the observance of even its most reiterated and important provisions during centuries of Israelitish history. It is emphatically a priestly book; yet from the days of David down to those of Josiah, the priests, with few exceptions, are almost ignored in the national records. They took the color of their opinions from the reigning kings, even in matters which were contrary to the whole extent and spirit of the Mosaic Code. Samuel, who was not a priest, nor even a Levite, performed every function of a priest, and of a high priest, all his life long.

3. Again, as we have seen, in spite of the positive distinctness of the Second Commandment, not only is the "calf-worship" established, with scarcely a protest, throughout the Northern Kingdom; but Solomon even ventures, without question or reproof, to place twelve oxen under his brazen sea, and to adorn the steps of his throne with golden lions.

4. Again, no ceremony was more awful, or more strikingly symbolical, in the later religion of Israel, than that of the Great Day of Atonement. It was the only appointed fast in the Jewish year, a day so sacred that it acquired the name of Yoma, "the Day." Yet the Day of Atonement, with its arresting ceremonies and intense significance, is not so much as once mentioned outside the Levitical Code by a single prophet, or priest, or king. It is not even mentioned-which is exceedingly strange-in the post-exilic Books of Chronicles. Between the Book of Leviticus (with its supposed date of 1491 B.C.), down to the days of Philo, Josephus, and the New Testament, there is not so much as a hint of the observance of this central ceremony of the whole Levitic law! What is more perplexing is that, in the ideal legislation of Ezekiel, where alone anything distantly resembling the Day of Atonement is alluded to, {Ezekiel 45:18-20} the time manner, and circumstances are as absolutely different as if Ezekiel had never read the Levitic law at all. How would any prophet have dared to ignore or alter, without a word of reference or apology, a rite of Divine origin and immemorial sanctity, if he had been aware of its existence?

5. Nor is this only the case with the Day of Atonement. It seems certain that at Jerusalem there was not for centuries anything distantly resembling the due Levitic observance of the three great yearly feasts. Nehemiah, for instance, tells us in so many words that since the days of Joshua the son of Nun down to B.C. 445-perhaps for a thousand years-the Feast of Tabernacles had never been observed in the most characteristic of all its appointed rites-the dwelling in booths. {Nehemiah 8:17}

6. Again, although there are slight allusions in some of the Prophets to "laws" and "statutes" and "commandments," their silence about, if not their absolute ignorance of; anything which resembles the Levitic legislation as a whole is a startling problem. Thus, even a late prophet like Jeremiah alludes, without a word of reprobation, to men cutting and making themselves bald for the dead (Jeremiah 16:6; comp. Jeremiah 12:5) in a way which the Levitic law {Leviticus 19:28, Deuteronomy 14:10} strenuously forbids.

7. Again, as is well known, there is a fundamental difference between the three codes as to the relative position of the priests and Levites.

(1) Exodus 19:6 all Israel is regarded as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation," and in Exodus 24:5 the young men of the children of Israel "offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings."

(2) Numbers 3:44-51 the Levites are set aside for the service of the Tabernacle in place of the firstborn. But neither in "the Book of the Covenant" nor in Deuteronomy is there any distinction between the services of the priests and the Levites.

(3) Deuteronomy 10:8 every Levite may become a priest. All priestly functions are open to the Levites, and the arrangements for the Levites are wholly different from those of Numbers.

(4) But in the Priestly Code only the sons of Aaron are to be priests. {Numbers 6:22-27, Numbers 18:1-7 Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 1:8} The Levites are to minister to them in more or less menial functions, and are permitted a share in the tithes, but not (as in Deuteronomy 18:1) in the firstfruits. We have first identity of priests and Levites, then partial, then absolute separation. The earliest trace of this degradation of the Levites is propounded as something quite new in Ezekiel 44:10-16, which distinctly implies (see Ezekiel 44:13) that up to that time the Levites had enjoyed full priestly rites.

It must be admitted that these facts are not capable of easy explanation, nor is it strange that they have led the way to unexpected conclusions. We have to face the certainty that, for ages together, the Levitic law was not only a dead letter among the people for whom it was intended, hut that its very existence does not seem to have been known. "For long periods," says Professor Robertson, "the people of Israel seem to have been as ignorant of their own religion as the people of Europe were of theirs in the Dark Ages." But the problem, were we to pursue it into its details, is far more perplexing than can be accounted for by the very partial and misleading parallel which Professor Robertson adduces. The parallel would be nearer if, throughout the Dark Ages for a thousand years together, scarcely a single trace were to be found, even under the best popes and the most pious kings, and even in theologic and sacred literature, of so much as the existence of a New Testament, or of any observance of the most distinctive festivals and sacraments of Christianity. And this, as Professor Robertson knows, is infinitely far from being the case. It is true that an argument ex silentio may easily be pushed too far; but we cannot ignore it when it is so striking as this, and when it is also strengthened by so many positive and corroborative facts.

A solution of this phenomenon-which becomes most salient in the Book of Kings-is proposed by the criticism which has received the title of "The Higher Criticism," because it is historic and constructive, and rises above purely verbal elements. That solution is that the Pentateuch is not only a composite structure (which all would concede), but that it was written in very different ages, and that much of it is of very late origin. Critics of the latest school believe that it consists of three well-marked and entirely different codes of laws-namely, "the Book of the Covenant"; {Exodus 20:23-23} the "Deuteronomic Code," first brought into prominence in the reign of Josiah, and written shortly before that reign: and the "Levitical" or "Priestly Code," which comprises most of Exodus, and nearly all Leviticus, and was not introduced till after the Exile. This would be indeed a radical conclusion, and cannot yet be regarded as having been conclusively established. But so remarkable has been the rapidity with which the opinion of religious critics has advanced on the subject, that now even the strongest opponents of this extreme view admit that the existence of the three separate codes has been demonstrated, although they still think that all three may belong to the Mosaic age. It is obvious, however, that this view leaves many of the difficulties entirely untouched. Criticism has not yet spoken her last word upon the subject, but we ought to take her views into account in considering the judgments pronounced by the historian of the Kings. They were judgments which, in their details, though not as regards broad moral principles, were based on the standpoint of a later age. The views of that later age must be discounted if we have to admit that some of the ritual innovations and legal transgressions of the kings were transgressions of laws of the very existence of which they were profoundly ignorant. That they were thus ignorant of them is not only implied throughout, but appears from the direct statements of the sacred historians. {See 2 Kings 22:11; Ezra 9:1; Ezra 9:7; Nehemiah 9:3}


Verses 6-11

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THE ARK AND THE CHERUBIM

1 Kings 6:23-30; 1 Kings 8:6-11.

"Jehovah, thundering out of Zion, throned Between the cherubim."

- MILTON

THE inculcation of truths so deep as the unity, the presence, and the mercy of God would alone have sufficed to give preciousness to the national sanctuary, and to justify the lavish expenditure with which it was carried to completion. But as in the Tabernacle, so in the Temple, which was only a more rich and permanent structure, the numbers, the colors, and many details had a real significance. The unity of the Temple shadowed forth the unity of the Godhead; while the concrete and perfect unity, resulting from the reconciliation of unity with difference and opposition (1 + 2), is "the signature of the Deity." Hence, as in our English cathedrals, three was the predominant number. There were three divisions, Porch, Holy Place, Oracle. Each main division contained three expiatory objects. Three times its width (which was 3 x 10) was the measure of its length. The number ten is also prominent in the measurements. It includes all the cardinal numbers, and, as the completion of multiplicity, is used to indicate a perfect whole. The seven pillars which supported the house, and the seven branches of the candlestick, recalled the sacredness of the seventh day hallowed by the Sabbath, by circumcision, and by the Passover. The number of the cakes of shewbread was twelve, "the signature of the people of Israel, a whole in the midst of which God resides, a body which moves after Divine laws." Of the colors predominant in the Temple, blue, the color of heaven, symbolizes revelation; white is the color of light and innocence; purple, of majesty and royal power; crimson, of life, being the color of fire and blood. Every gem on the high priest’s pectoral had its mystic significance, and the bells and pomegranates which fringed the edge of his ephod were emblems of devotion and good works.

Two instances will suffice to indicate how deep and rich was the significance of the truths which Moses had endeavored to engraft in the minds of his people, and to which Solomon, whether with full consciousness or not, gave permanence in the Temple.

1. Consider, first, the Ark.

Every step towards the Holiest was a step of deepening reverence. The Holy Land was sacred, but Jerusalem was more sacred than all the rest. The Temple was the most sacred part of the city; the Oracle was the most sacred part of the Temple; the Ark was the most sacred thing in the Oracle; yet the Ark was only sacred because of that which it contained.

And what did it contain? What was it which enshrined in itself this quintessence of all sanctitude? When we pierce to the inmost recesses of a pyramid, we find there only the ashes of a dead man, or even of an animal. Within the adytum of an Egyptian temple we might have found "an ox wallowing on purple tapestry." The Egyptians, too, had their arks, as the Greeks had the cyst of Cybele, and the vannus of Iacchus. What did they contain? At the best phallic emblems, the emblems of prolific nature. But the Ark of Jehovah contained nothing but the stone tablets on which were carved the Ten Words of the Covenant, the briefest possible form of the moral law of God. In the inmost heart of the Temple was its most inestimable treasure, -a protest against all idolatry; a protest against all polytheism, or ditheism, or atheism; a protest, too against the formalism which the Temple itself and its services might tend to produce in its least spiritually minded worshippers. Thus the entire Temple was a glorification of the truth that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and that the one end to be produced by the fear of the Lord is obedience to His commandments. The Ark and its unseen treasure taught that no religion can be of the least value which does not result in conformity with the plain moral laws:-be obedient; be kind; be pure; be honest; be truthful; be contented; and that this obedience can only spring from faith in the one God whom all real worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.

Obvious as this lesson might seem to be, it was entirely missed by the Jews in general. The Ark, too, was degraded into a fetish, and Jeremiah says {Jeremiah 3:16} of the exiles, "They shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they miss it: neither shall it be made any more" (Hebrews). When a symbol has been perverted into a source of materialism and superstition, it becomes not only useless but positively dangerous. No religions have fallen so absolutely dead as those which have sunk into petty formalism. The Ark, for all its quintessential sacredness, had been suffered to fall into the hands of uncircumcised Philistines, and to be placed in their Dagon temple, to show that it was no mere idolatrous amulet. Ultimately it was carried away to Babylon, to adorn the palace of a heathen tyrant, and probably to perish by fire in his captured city. In the second Temple there was no ark. Nothing remained but the rock of Araunah’s threshing-floor, on which it once had stood.

2. Consider, next, the meaning of the Cherubim.

(1) The infinite sanctity given to the conception of the moral law was enhanced by the introduction of these overshadowing figures. We are never told in the entire books of Scripture what was the form of these cherubim; nor is their function anywhere specially defined; nor, again, can we be at all certain of the derivation of the name. That the cherubim over the Ark were not identical with the fourfold-visage-four of Ezekiel’s cherub-chariot we know, because they certainly had but one face. But we now know that among the Assyrians, Persians, Egyptians, and other nations nothing was more common than these cherubic emblems, which were introduced into their palaces and temples under the forms of winged lions, oxen, men, and eagle-headed human figures. We see also that in the Tabernacle, and to a still greater extent in the Temple, a tacit exception to the stringency of the Second Commandment seems to have been made in favor of the component parts of these cherubic figures. If Solomon was aware (as he surely must have been) of the existence of the law, "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image," he must either have laid stress on the words "to thyself," and have excused the brazen oxen which supported his great laver on the ground that they could not be turned into objects of worship, or he must have held, as Ezekiel apparently did, that the ox was the predominant form in the cherubic emblem. From the Vision of Ezekiel we see that the cherubim-like the "Immortalities" of the Apocalypse, which had faces of the ox, the eagle, the lion, and the man-were conceived of as "living creatures" upholding the sapphire Throne of God. They had wings, and the similitude of hands under their wings. They flashed to and fro like lightning in the midst of a great cloud, and an enfolding fire, and a rolling mass of amber-colored flame. Of the form of this "changeable hieroglyphic" we need say no more. Perhaps originally suggested by the wreathing fires and rolling storm clouds, which were regarded as immediate signs of the Divine proximity, the cherubim came to be regarded as the genius of the created universe in its richest perfection and energy, at once revealing and shrouding the Presence of God. Their eyes represent His omniscience, for "the eyes of the Lord are in every place"; their wings and straight feet represent the speed and fiery gliding of His omnipresence; each element of their fourfold shape indicates His love, His patience, His power, His sublimity. Their wheels imply that "the dread magnificence of the unintelligent creation" is under His entire control; and, as a whole, they symbolize the dazzling beauty of the universe, alike conscious and material. They were the ideal anima animantium-the perfection of existence emanating from and subject to the Divine Creator whose tender mercy is over all His works. Their function, when they are first introduced in the Book of Genesis, is at once vengeful and protective; vengeful of the violated law, protective of the treasure of life. They are here the Erinnyes of the Dawn, revealing and avenging the works of darkness. Their "dreadful faces and fiery arms" at the gate of Eden typify guilty awakenment, realized retribution, conscious alienation from God, the universe siding with His awakened anger.

(2) But when next they are mentioned, God says to Moses, "Thou shalt make a mercy-seat of pure gold, and thou shalt make two cherubim of gold at the two ends of the mercy-seat." But for their presence on the mercy-seat how terrible would have been the symbolism of the Holy of Holies-God’s darkness, man’s crime, a broken law! It would have represented Him who hath clouds and darkness round about Him, and dwelleth in darkness which no man can approach unto; and the Ark would only have treasured up, as a witness against man’s apostasy, the shattered slabs of the words of Sinai. But over that Ark, and its saddening because dishallowed treasure, bent once more these mystic figures, these "cherubim of glory." They bent down as though at once to protect with outspread wings, and to regard with awful contemplation, that mystic gift of a law promulgated to all nations as their moral heritage and as the revealed will of God. These are no longer cherubim of vengeance or awakened wrath, for they stand on the Capporeth, the "covering," or "propitiatory" of the Ark. They gleamed out in the red light of the high priest’s golden brazier on the one day when human foot entered the darkness m which they were shrouded; and even by him they were but dimly discerned through the ascending wreaths of fragrant incense. But he stood before them, where, on their spreading wings, the light of the Divine presence was deemed to dwell; and with the blood of expiation he sprinkled seven times the mercy-seat over which these adoring figures leaned. The wrathful cherubim of the lost Eden had driven man from a treasure which he had forfeited; but these, though they guard the ten words of a law which man had broken, were cherubim of mercy and reconciliation. Those of Eden were armed with swords of flame; those of the Temple were reddened with the blood of forgiveness. Those typified a covenant destroyed and ended; these a covenant broken yet renewed. Those spoke of awakened wrath; these of covenanted mercy. Those kept men back from the Tree of Life; these guarded that which is a Tree of Life to them that love it.

Could the whole covenant of the law and the gospel have been symbolized more simply, yet with Diviner force? The Temple itself, with all its sacrifices, with all its service and ceremonial and all the gorgeous vestments of Aaron’s vestry, served but to teach the infinite worth of simple righteousness. The heart of the Mosaic legislation was nothing so poor, so paltry, so material as the promotion of liturgical Levitism, and the pomp of ritual, and the organization of priestly functions-as though these in themselves had any value in the sight of God. It lay in the lesson that "Obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." The law of Moses-the ten words which constituted the inmost preciousness of his legislation-was, alas! a violated law. For the disobedient it had no message but the wrathful menace of death. But to show that God has not abandoned His disobedient children, but would still enable them to keep that law, and to repent for its transgression, the cherubim are there. Their presence on the propitiatory was meant to reveal the glory of the gospel. The high priest, who alone saw them on the Great Day of Israel, was a type of Him who, not with the blood of bulls and goats, but in His own blood (i.e., in the glory of the life outpoured for man), entered into God’s presence within the veil.

(3) In the dazzling living creatures before the throne in the Revelation of St. John, we see once more these cherubim of Eden, who, having indicated at the Fall an awful warning, and represented in the Tabernacle a blessed hope, symbolize, in the last book of the Bible, a Divine fulfillment. They are there no longer with fiery swords, in wrathful aspect, in repellent silence; but, gracious and beautiful, they join in the new song of the redeemed multitude under the shadow of the Tree of Life, to which all have free access in that recovered Eden. In the Temple-glimmering through the rising fumes of incense, which were the type of accepted prayer, their golden plumage sprinkled with the blood of the atoning sacrifice-they became a type both of all creation up to its most celestial beings, gazing in adoration on the will of God, and of all creation, in its groaning and travailing, restored through the precious blood that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. Not all, of course, of these deep meanings were present to the souls of Israel’s worshippers; but the best of them might with joy see something of the things which we see when we say that in these glorious figures are summed up the three chief images of all Scripture: first, the Primaeval Dispensation, "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die"; next, in the wilderness, "This do, and thou shalt live"; last of all, in the Gospel Dispensation, "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests."


Verses 12-61

THE IDEAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TEMPLE

1 Kings 7:13-51; 1 Kings 8:12-61

"The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth."

- John 4:21; John 4:23.

FIVE long chapters of the First Book of Kings are devoted to the description of Solomon's Temple, which occupies a still larger space in the Books of Chronicles. The Temple was regarded as the permanent form of the ancient Tabernacle, which is described with lengthy and minute detail in Exodus. It might seem, therefore, that there must be some clear explanation of the idea which this sacred building was intended to embody. Yet it is by no means easy to ascertain what this idea was, and those who have deeply studied the question have in age after age been led to widely different views.

1. Philo and Josephus, with certain variations of detail, regard it as a symbol of the universe-the world of idea and the world of sense. Thus the seven-branched candlestick represents the seven planets; the twelve cakes of shewbread are the twelve signs of the Zodiac; the court is the earth; the sanctuary the sea; and the oracle the heavens. The theory derives no importance from its authorship. Neither Philo nor Josephus, nor the Rabbis, nor the Fathers who adopted their views, have the least authority in such matters; and Philo, who led the way in mystical interpretation, abounds in fantasies which are ludicrously impossible, and are now universally rejected.

2. The Talmudists held that the Tabernacle was the exact copy of one in heaven, and that its services reflected those of the heavenly hierarchy. This view went into the extreme of literalism, as the other did into the extreme of spiritualization. It was based on the text, "Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount." {Exodus 25:40; Exodus 26:30 Acts 7:44 Hebrews 8:5} The Book of Chronicles goes so far in this direction as to say that David received from Jehovah the exact pattern of the Temple down to its minutest details, together with the entire priestly and Levitic organization of its services.

"All this," says David to Solomon, "the Lord made me to understand in writing, by His hand upon me, even all the works in the pattern."

3. Christian writers have seen in the Temple an emblem of the visible, the invisible, and the triumphant Church. Such symbolic interpretation depends on the most arbitrary combinations, and does not rise higher than an exercise of fancy. It has not the smallest exegetic importance.

4. Luther thought that the Tabernacle and Temple were emblems of human nature:-the court, the sanctuary, and the oracle corresponding to the body, the soul, and the spirit. Later writers have pushed this opinion, already sufficiently baseless, into the absurdest detail.

5. The much simpler view of Maimonides who is followed by our learned Spencer, is that the Temple was simply the palace of Jehovah, with its vestibule, its audience hall, its Presence-chamber, its attendant courtiers, its throne, and its offerings of food and wine and sacrifice. The simplicity of this conception seems to be in accordance with what we know of ancient forms of worship, and it is certain that in many heathen temples the offerings of food and wine were supposed to be consumed by the god. The name "palace" is, however, only given to the Temple in one chapter; {1 Chronicles 29:1; 1 Chronicles 29:19} and the Hebrew, or rather the Persian, word so rendered (birah) may also be rendered "fortress."

6. In truth we cannot be sure that the idea of the Temple remained single and definite through so many ages. It was probably a composite and varying emblem, of which the original significance had become mingled with many later elements. It is, however, certain that many numbers and details were symbolical, and there was a deep insight and magnificent completeness in the manner in which certain truths were shadowed forth by its construction and its central service.

The book in which its symbolism is most thoroughly worked out is Bahr’s Symbolik. He elaborates, in a simpler form, the opinion of Philo, that the Temple represented "the structure which God has erected, the house in which God lives." So far the fact cannot be disputed for, in Exodus 29:45 we are told that the Tabernacle is called the "House of God" because "I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel, and will be their God." But Bahr takes a great leap when he proceeds to explain the house of God as "the creation of heaven and earth." If his views were true as a whole, it would indeed be strange that they are not indicated in a single passage either of the Old or New Testaments.

The Tabernacle was called "the Tabernacle of the Testimony" because its two tables of stone were a witness of the covenant between God and man. It was also called "the Tabernacle of Meeting," by which is not meant the place where Israel assembled, but the place where God met Moses and the children of Israel. "For there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat," says Jehovah to Moses; {Exodus 25:22} and "at the entrance of the tent of meeting I will meet with you to speak there unto thee, and there I will meet with the children of Israel." {Exodus 29:42-43} Thus, in its broadest idea, the Temple brought before the soul of every thoughtful Israelite the three great beliefs,

(1) that God deigned to dwell in the midst of His people;

(2) that, in His infinite mercy and condescension, He admitted a reciprocity between Himself and His human children; and

(3) that the most absolute expression of His will was the moral law, Obedience to which was the condition of heavenly favor and earthly happiness.

"In the Porch," says Bishop Hall, "we may see the regenerate soul entering into the blessed society of the Church; in the Holy Place we may see a figure of the Communion of the true visible Church on earth; in the Holy of Holies the glories of Heaven opened to us by our true High Priest Christ Jesus, who entered once for all to make an Atonement betwixt God and man."


Verses 62-66

THE TEMPLE SACRIFICES

1 Kings 8:62-66; 1 Kings 9:25

"I have chosen this house to Myself for a house of sacrifice."

- 2 Chronicles 7:12

"Gifts and sacrifices, that cannot, as touching the conscience make the worshipper perfect, being only carnal ordinances, imposed until a time of reformation."

- Hebrews 9:9-10

THE whole sacrificial system with which our thoughts of Judaism are perhaps erroneously, and much too exclusively identified, furnishes us with many problems.

Whether it was originally of Divine origin, or whether it was only an instinctive expression, now of the gratitude, and now of the guilt and fear, of the human heart, we are not told. Nor is the basal idea on which it was founded ever explained to us. Were the ideas of "atonement" or propitiation (Kippurim) really connected with those of substitution and vicarious punishment? Or was the main conception that of self-sacrifice, which was certainly most prominent in the burnt offerings? Doubtless the views alike of priests and worshippers were to a great extent indefinite. We are not told what led Cain and Abel to present their sacrifices to God; nor did Moses-if he were its founder-furnish any theories to explain the elaborate system laid down in the book of Leviticus. The large majority of the Jews probably sacrificed simply because to do so had become a part of their religious observances, and because in doing so they believed themselves to be obeying a Divine command. Others, doubtless, had as many divergent theories as Christians have when they attempt to explain the Atonement. The "substitution" theory of the "sin offering" finds little or no support from the Old Testament; not only is it never stated, but there is not a single clear allusion to it. It is emphatically asserted by later Jewish authorities, such as Rashi, Aben Ezra, Moses ben-Nachman, and Maimonides, and is enshrined in the Jewish liturgy. Yet Dr. Edersheim writes: "The common idea that the burning, either of part or the whole of the sacrifice, pointed to its destruction, and symbolized the wrath of God and the punishment due to sin, does not seem to accord with the statements of scripture." Sacrifices were of two kinds, bloody (Zebach), or unbloody (minchah, korban). The latter were oblations. Such were the cakes of shewbread, the meal and drink offerings, the first sheaf at Passover, the two loaves at Pentecost. In almost every instance the minchah accompanied the offering of a sacrificial victim. The two general rules about all victims for sacrifice were,

(1) that they should be without blemish and without spot, as types of perfectness; and

(2) that every sacrifice should be salted with salt, as an antiseptic, and therefore a type of incorruption. {Mark 9:49}

Sacrificial victims could only be chosen from oxen, sheep, goats, turtle doves; and young pigeons-the latter being the offering of the poor who could not afford the costlier victims. Sacrifices were also divided generally

(1) into free, or obligatory;

(2) public, or private; and

(3) most holy or less holy,

of which the latter were slain at the north and the former at the east side of the altar. The offerer, according to the Rabbis, had to do five things-to lay on hands, slay, skin, dissect, and wash the inwards. The priest had also to do five things at the altar itself-to catch the blood, sprinkle it, light the fire, bring up the pieces, and complete the sacrifices. Sacrifices are chiefly dwelt upon in the Priestly Code; but nowhere in the Old Testament is their significance formally explained, nor for many centuries was the Levitic ritual much regarded. {See 6:19-21 1 Samuel 2:13, 1 Kings 19:21 2 Kings 5:17}

The sacrifices commanded in the Pentateuch fall under four heads.

(1) The burnt offering (Olah, Kalil), which typified complete self-dedication, and which even the heathen might offer;

(2) the sin offering (Chattath), which made atonement for the offender;

(3) the trespass offering (Asham), which atones for some special offence, whether doubtful or certain, committed through ignorance; and

(4) the thank offering, eucharistic peace offering (Shelem), or "offering of completion," which followed the other sacrifices, and of which the flesh was eaten by the priest and the worshippers.

The oldest practice seems only to have known of burnt offerings and thank offerings, and the former seem only to have been offered at great sacrificial feasts. Even in Deuteronomy a common phrase for sacrifices is "eating before the Lord," which is almost ignored in the Priestly Code. Of the sin offering, which in that code has acquired such enormous importance, there is scarcely a trace-unless Hosea 4:8 be one, which is doubtful-before Ezekiel, in whom the Asham and Chattath occur in place of the old pecuniary fines. {2 Kings 12:16} Originally sacrifice was a glad meal, and even in the oldest part of the code {Leviticus 18:1-30; Leviticus 19:1-37; Leviticus 20:1-27; Leviticus 21:1-24; Leviticus 22:1-33; Leviticus 23:1-44; Leviticus 24:1-23; Leviticus 25:1-55; Leviticus 26:1-46} sacrifices are comprised under the Olam and Zebach. The turning-point of the history of the Sacrificial system is Josiah’s reformation, of which the Priestly Code is the matured result.

It is easy to see that sacrifices in general were eucharistic, dedicatory, and expiatory.

The eucharistic sacrifices (the meal and peace offerings) and the burnt offerings, which indicated the entire sacrifice of self, were the offerings of those who were in communion with God. They were recognitions of His absolute supremacy. The sin and trespass offerings were intended to recover a lost communion with God and thus the sacrifices were, or ultimately came to be, the expression of the great ideas of thanksgiving, of self-dedication, and of propitiation. But the Israelites, "while they seem always to have retained the idea of propitiation and of eucharistic offering, constantly ignored the self-dedication, which is the link between the two, and which the regular burnt offering should have impressed upon them as their daily thought and duty." Had they kept this in view they would have been saved from the superstitions and degeneracies which made their use of the sacrificial system a curse and not a blessing. The expiatory conception, which was probably the latest of the three, expelled the others, and was perverted into the notion that God was a God of wrath, whose fury could be averted by gifts and His favor won by bribes. There was this truth in the notion of propitiation-that God hates, and is alienated by, and will punish, sin; and yet that in His mercy He has provided an Atonement for us. But in trying to imagine how the sacrifice affected God, the Israelites lost sight of the truth that this is an inexplicable mystery, and that all which we can know is the effect which it can produce on the souls of man. If they had interpreted the sacrifices as a whole to mean this only - that man is guilty and that God is merciful; and that though man’s guilt separates him from God, reunion with him can be gained by confession, penitence, and self-sacrifice, by virtue of an Atonement which he had revealed and would accept-then the effect of them would have been spiritually wholesome and ennobling. But when they came to think that sacrifices were presents to God, which might be put in the place of amendment and moral obedience, and that the punishment due to their offences might be thus mechanically diverted upon the heads of innocent victims, then the sacrificial system was rendered not only nugatory but pernicious. Nor have Christians been exempt from a similar corruption of the doctrine of the Atonement. In treating it as vicarious and expiatory they have forgotten that it is unavailing unless it be also representative. In looking upon it as the atonement for sin they have overlooked that there can be no such atonement unless it be accompanied by redemption from sin. They have tacitly and practically acted on the notion, which in the days of St. Paul some even avowed, that "we may continue in sin that grace may abound." But in the great work of redemption the will of man cannot be otiose. He must himself die with Christ. As Christ was sacrificed for him, he, too, must offer his body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. "Without the sin offering of the Cross," says Bishop Barry, "our burnt offering (of self-dedication) would be impossible; so also without the burnt offering the sin offering will, to us, be unavailing."

Many of the crudities, and even horrors, which, alike in Jewish and Christian times, have been mixed up with the idea of bloody sacrifices, would have been removed if more attention had been paid to the prominence and real significance of blood in the entire ritual. As taught by some revivalists the doctrine of the blood adds the most revolting touches to theories which assimilate God to Moloch; hut the true significance of the phrase and of the symbol elevates the entire doctrine of sacrifice into a purer and more spiritual atmosphere.

The central significance of the whole doctrine lies in the ancient opinion that "the blood" of the sacrifice was "its life." This was why an expiatory power was ascribed to the blood. There was certainly no transfer of guilt to the animal, for its blood remained clean and cleansing. Nor was the animal supposed to undergo the transgressor’s punishment; first, because this is nowhere stated, and next, because had that been the case, fine flour would certainly not have been permitted (as it was) as a sin offering. {Leviticus 5:11-13} Moreover, no willful offence, no offense "with uplifted hand," i.e., with evil premeditation, could be atoned for either by sin or trespass offerings; -though certainly so wide a latitude was given to the notion of sin as an involuntary error as to tend to break down the notion of moral responsibility. The sin offering was further offered for some purely accidental and ceremonial offences, which could not involve any real consciousness of guilt. The "blood of the covenant" {Exodus 24:4-8} was not of the sin offering, but of peace and burnt offerings; and though, as Canon Cook says, we read of blood in paganism as a propitiation to a hostile demon, "we seem to seek in vain for an instance in which the blood, as a natural symbol for the soul, was offered as an atoning sacrifice." "The atoning virtue of the blood lies not in its material substance, but in the life of which it is the vehicle," says Bishop Westcott. "The blood always includes the thought of the life preserved and active beyond death. It is not simply the price by which the redeemed were purchased, but the power by which they were quickened so as to be capable of belonging to God." "To drink the blood of Christ," says Clement of Alexandria, "is to partake of the Lord’s incorruption."

Besides the points to which we have alluded, there is a further difficulty created by the singular silence respecting sin offerings of any kind, except in that part of the Old Testament which has recently acquired the name of the Priestly Code.

The word Chattath, in the sense of sin offering, occurs in Exodus 29:1-46; Exodus 30:1-38, and many times in Leviticus and Numbers, and six times in Ezekiel. Otherwise in the Old Testament it is barely mentioned, except in the post-exilic Books of Chronicles {2 Chronicles 29:24} and Ezra. {Ezra 8:25} It is not mentioned in any other historic book; nor in any prophet except Ezekiel. Again as we have seen, the Day of Atonement leaves not a trace in any of the earlier historic records of Scripture, and is found only in the authorities above mentioned. Through all the rest of Scripture the scapegoat is unmentioned, and Azazel is ignored. Dr. Kalisch goes so far as to say that there is conclusive evidence to prove that the Day of Atonement was instituted considerably more than a thousand years after the death of Moses and Aaron. For even in Ezekiel, who wrote B.C. 574, there is no Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month, but on the first and seventh of the first month (Abib, Nisan). He thinks it utterly impossible that, had it existed in his time, Ezekiel could have blotted out the holiest day of the year, and substituted two of his own arbitrary choice. The rites, moreover, which he describes differ wholly from those laid down in Leviticus. Even in Nehemiah there is no notice of the day of Atonement, though a day was observed on the twenty-fourth of the month. Hence this learned writer infers that even in B.C. 440 the Great Day of Atonement was not yet recognized, and that the pagan element of sending the scapegoat to Azazel, the demon of the wilderness, proves the late date of the ceremony.

It is interesting to observe how utterly the sacrificial priestly system, in the abuses which not only became involved in it, but seemed to be almost inseparable from it, is condemned by the loftier spiritual intuition which belongs to phases of revelation higher than the external and the typical.

Thus in the Old Testament no series of inspired utterances is more interesting, more eloquent, more impassioned and ennobling, than those which insist upon the utter nullity of all sacrifices in themselves, and their absolute insignificance in comparison with the lightest element of the moral law. On this subject the Prophets and the Psalmists use language so sweeping and exceptionless as almost to repudiate the desirability of sacrifices altogether. They speak of them with a depreciation akin to scorn. It may be doubted whether they had the Mosaic system with all its details, as we know it, before them. They do not enter into those final elaborations which it assumed, and not one of them so much as alludes to any service which resembles the powerfully symbolic ceremonial of the Great Day of Atonement. But they speak of the ceremonial law in such fragments and aspects of it as were known to them. They deal with it as priests practiced it, and as priests taught-if they ever taught anything-respecting it. They speak of it as it presented itself to the minds of the people around them, with whom it had become rather a substitute for moral efforts and an obstacle in the path of righteousness, than an aid to true religion. And this is what they say:-

"Hath the Lord as great delight in sacrifice," asks the indignant SAMUEL, "as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." {1 Samuel 15:22}

"I hate, I despise your feasts," says Jehovah by Amos, "and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Yea, though ye offer Me your burnt offerings and meal offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Turn thou away from Me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." {Amos 5:21-23}

"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord," asks MICAH, "and bow myself before the most high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" {Micah 6:6-8}

HOSEA again in a message of Jehovah, twice quoted on different occasions by our Lord, says: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." {Hosea 6:6} ISAIAH also, in the word of the Lord, gives burning expression to the same conviction: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of lambs, arid the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hands, to trample My courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto Me; new moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies, -I cannot away with iniquity and the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth: they are a cumbrance unto Me; I am weary to bear them Wash you, make you clean!" {Isaiah 1:11-16}

The language of JEREMIAH’S message is even more startling: "I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: but this thing I commanded them, saying, Obey My voice." And again-in the version of the LXX, given in the margin of the Revised Version for the unintelligible rendering of the Authorized Version-he asks: "Why hath the-beloved wrought abomination in My house? Shall vows and holy flesh take away from thee thy wickedness, or shalt thou escape by these?" {Jeremiah 7:22, Jeremiah 11:15} Jeremiah, is, in fact the most anti-ritualistic of the prophets. So far from having hid and saved the Ark, he regarded it as entirely obsolete. {Jeremiah 3:16} He cares only for the spiritual covenant written on the heart, and very little, if at all, for Temple services and Levitic scrupulosities. {Jeremiah 7:4-15; Jeremiah 31:31-34} THE PSALMISTS are no less clear and emphatic in putting sacrifices nowhere in comparison with righteousness:-"I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices; Nor for thy burnt offerings which are continually before Me. I will take no bullock out of thine house, Nor he-goats out of thy folds."

"Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; And pay thy vows unto the Most High." {Psalms 50:8-14}

And again:-

"For Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it Thee: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." {Psalms 51:16-17}

And again:-

"Sacrifice and offering Thou hast no delight in; Mine ears hast thou opened: Burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required." {Psalms 40:6}

And again:-

"To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." {Proverbs 21:3}

And again:-

"I will praise the name of God with a song, And magnify it with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord rather than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs." {Psalms 69:30-31}

Surely the most careless and conventional reader cannot fail to see that there is a wide difference between the standpoint of the prophets, which is so purely spiritual, and that of the writers and redactors of the Priestly Code, whose whole interest centered in the sacrificial and ceremonial observances. Nor is the intrinsic nullity of the sacrificial system less distinctly pointed out in the New Testament. The better-instructed Jews, enlightened by Christ’s teaching, could give emphatic testimony to the immeasurable superiority of the moral to the ceremonial. The candid scribe, hearing from Christ’s lips the two great commandments, answers, "Of a truth, Master, Thou hast well said that He is one; and there is none other but He: and to love Him with all the heart and to love his neighbor as himself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

And our Lord quoted Hosea with the emphatic commendation, "Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." {Matthew 9:13} And on another occasion: "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." {Matthew 12:7}

The presenting of our bodies, says St. Paul, as a living sacrifice is our reasonable service; and St. Peter calls all Christians a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifice. {1 Peter 2:5}

It is impossible, says the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins; and he speaks of the priests daily offering the same sacrifice, the which can never take away sins." {Hebrews 10:4; Hebrews 10:11} And again:-"To do good and to distribute forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." {Hebrews 13:16}

The wisest fathers of Jewish thought in the post-exilic epoch held the same views. Thus the son of Sirach says: "He that keepeth the law bringeth offerings enough." (Sirach 35:1-15) And Philo, echoing an opinion common among the best heathen moralists from Socrates to Marcus Aurelius, writes, "The mind, when without blemish, is itself the most holy sacrifice, being entirely and in all respects pleasing to God."

And what is very remarkable, modern Judaism now emphasizes its belief that "neither sacrifice nor a Levitical system belong to the essence of the Old Testament," Such was the view of the ancient Essenes, no less than of Maimonides or Abarbanel. Modern Rabbis even go so far as to argue that the whole system of Levitical sacrifice was an alien element, introduced into Judaism from without, tolerated indeed by Moses, but only as a concession to the immaturity of his people and their hardness of heart.

Such, too, was the opinion of the ancient Fathers of the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, of Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, Jerome, Chrysostom, Epiphanius, Cyril, and Theodoret, who are followed by such Roman Catholic theologians as Petavius and Bellarmine.

This at any rate is certain-that the Judaic system is not only abrogated, but rendered impossible. Whatever were its functions, God has stamped with absolute disapproval any attempt to continue them. They are utterly annulled and obliterated forever.

"I am come to repeal the sacrifices." Such is the {missing Greek words} ascribed to Christ; "and unless ye desist from sacrificing, the wrath of God will not desist from you." The argument of St. Paul in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, and of the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, show us why this was inevitable; and they were but following the initiative of Christ and the teaching of His Spirit. It is a mistake to imagine that our Lord merely repudiated the inane pettinesses of Pharisaic formalism. He went much further. There is not the slightest trace that He personally observed the requirements of the ceremonial law. It is certain that He broke them when he touched the leper and the dead youth’s bier. The law insisted on the centralization of worship, but Jesus said, "The day cometh, and now is, when neither in Jerusalem, nor yet in this mountain, shall men worship the Father. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." The law insisted, with extreme emphasis, on the burdensome distinctions between clean and unclean meats. Jesus said that it is not that which cometh from without, but that which cometh from within which defileth a man, and this He said "making all meats clean." {Mark 7:19} St. Paul, when the types of Mosaism had been forever fulfilled in Christ, and the antitype had thus become obsolete and pernicious, went further still. Taking circumcision, the most ancient and most distinctive rite of the Old Dispensation, he called it "concision" or mere mutilation, and said thrice over, "Circumcision, is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but ‘a new creature"’; "but faith working by love," "but the keeping of the commandment of God." The whole system of Judaism was local, was external, was minute, was inferior, was transient, was a concession to infirmity, was a yoke of bondage: the whole system of Christianity is universal, is spiritual, is simple, is un-sacrificial, is un-sacerdotal, is perfect freedom. Judaism was a religion of a temple, of sacrifices, of a sacrificial priesthood: Christianity is a religion in which the Spirit of God

"Doth prefer before all temples the upright heart and pure."

It is a religion in which there is no more sacrifice for sin, because the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, has been consummated for ever. It is a religion in which there is no altar but the Cross; in which there is no priest but Christ, except so far as every Christian is by metaphor a priest to offer up spiritual sacrifices which alone are acceptable to God.

The Temple of Solomon lasted only four centuries, and they were for the most part years of dishonor, disgrace, and decadence. Solomon was scarcely in his grave before it was plundered by Shishak. During its four centuries of existence it was again stripped of its precious possessions at least six times, sometimes by foreign oppressors, sometimes by distressed kings. It was despoiled of its treasure by Asa, by Jehoash of Judah, by Jehoash of Israel, by Ahaz, by Hezekiah, and lastly by Nebuchadnezzar. After such plunderings it must have completely lost its pristine splendor. But the plunder of its treasures was nothing to the pollutions of its sanctity. They began as early as the reigns of Rehoboam and Abijah. Ahaz gave it a Syrian altar, Manasseh stained it with impurities, and Ezekiel in its secret chambers surveyed "the dark idolatries of alienated Judah."

And in the days when Judaism most prized itself on ritual faithfulness, the Lord of the Temple was insulted in the Temple of the Lord, and its courts were turned by greedy priests and Sadducees into a cowshed, and a dovecot, and a fair, and a usurer’s mart, and a robber’s den.

From the first the centralization of worship in the Temple must have been accompanied by the danger of dissociating religious life from its daily social environments. The "multitudes who lived in remote country places would no longer be able to join in forms of worship which had been carried on at local shrines. Judaism, as the prophets so often complain, tended to become too much a matter of officialism and function, of rubric and technique, which always tend to substitute external service for true devotion, and to leave the shell of religion without its soul."

Even when it had been purified by Josiah’s reformation, the Temple proved to be a source of danger and false security. It was regarded as a sort of Palladium. The formalists began to talk and act as though it furnished a mechanical protection, and gave them license to transgress the moral law. Jeremiah had sternly to warn his countrymen against this trust in an idle formalism. "Amend your ways and your doings," he said. "Behold, ye trust in lying words which cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye have not known, and come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, We are delivered; that ye may do all these abominations?"

The Temple of Solomon was defaced and destroyed and polluted by the Babylonians, but not until it had been polluted by the Jews themselves with the blood of prophets, by idolatries, by chambers of unclean imagery. It was rebuilt by a poor band of disheartened exiles to be again polluted by Antiochus Epiphanes, and ultimately to become the headquarters of a narrow, arrogant, and intriguing Pharisaism. It was rebuilt once more by Herod, the brutal Idumean usurper, and its splendor inspired such passionate enthusiasm that when it was wrapped in flames by Titus, it witnessed the carnage of thousands of maddened and despairing combatants.

"As ‘mid the cedar courts and gates of gold

The trampled ranks in miry carnage rolled

To save their Temple every hand essayed,

And with cold fingers grasp’d the feeble blade;

Through their torn veins reviving fury ran

And life’s last anger warm’d the dying man."

Yet that last Temple had been defiled by a worse crime than the other two. It had witnessed the priestly idols and the priestly machinations which ended in the murder of the Son of God. From the Temple sprang little or nothing of spiritual importance. Intended to teach the supremacy of righteousness, it became the stronghold of mere ritual. For the development of true holiness, as apart from ceremonial scrupulosity, its official protectors rendered it valueless.

We are not surprised that Christianity knows no temple but the hearts of all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth; and that the characteristic of the New Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven like a bride adorned for her husband, is:-

"And I saw no temple therein." {Revelation 21:22}

Abundantly was the menace fulfilled in which Jehovah warned Solomon after the Feast of Dedication that if Israel swerved into immorality and idolatry, that house should be an awful warning-that its blessing should be exchanged into a curse, and that every one who passed by it should be astonished and should hiss.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Kings 8:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/1-kings-8.html.

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