The Word Made Fresh
1Then King Solomon summoned all the elders and family heads and officials of Israel to come to him in Jerusalem for the occasion of bringing up the LORD’s covenant chest out of the City of David (Mt. Zion). 2They all met with the king during the festival in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month. 3The elders accompanied the priests who carried the chest. 4They brought the chest along with its tent, and the priests and Levites carried all the sacred utensils and containers. 5King Solomon and the people of Israel who had gathered with him accompanied him as he sacrificed sheep and oxen — so many that they lost count. 6The priests carried the covenant chest into the inner sanctuary of the temple and placed it in the most sacred place beneath the outstretched wings of the cherubim, 7with their wings spread over the chest to shelter it. 8The carrying poles were long enough to be seen from the sacred area in front of the inner sanctuary, but not from the outside. They are still there today. 9The chest contained only the two stone tablets Moses had placed there at Horeb where the LORD made the covenant with the Israelites after they had come out of Egypt.
10When the priests came out of the inner sanctuary a cloud filled the temple. 11It was so thick the priests couldn’t see what they were doing because of the glory of the LORD. 12Then Solomon said, “The LORD told us, ‘I will dwell in thick darkness.’ 13I have built a great temple for you to dwell in forever.” 14Then the king turned and blessed the people. 15“The LORD God of Israel is exalted, who carried out every promise made to my father David. 16The LORD said to him, ‘Since the day I brought my people out of Egypt I have not selected a city from within any tribe of Israel in which to build a house for my name to dwell; but I have chosen you, David, to govern my people Israel.’ 17My father David wanted to build a temple for the name of the LORD God of Israel, 18but the LORD told him, ‘It is well that you want to do such a thing, 19but you are not the one to build it. You shall have a son who will build the temple for me.’ 20The LORD has kept that promise. I have taken my father David’s place on the throne of Israel as the LORD promised, and I have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 21I have made a place within it for the covenant chest in which is kept the promise the LORD made with our ancestors when they came out of Egypt.”
22Then Solomon stood before the LORD’s altar in full view of the people, raised his hands upward to the heavens and said, 23“O LORD God of Israel, there is no other God like you in heaven above or on earth below. You have kept the promise and your steadfast regard for your people who with all their heart seek to live by your guidance. 24You kept that promise for your servant my father David just as you said. The promise you made with your voice you have fulfilled with your hand. 25And so I ask you, LORD God of Israel, to keep for my father David’s sake the promise you made when you told him he would always have a descendant on Israel’s throne so long as they are careful to abide by your law and live before you as he did. 26O God of Israel, let your promise be confirmed which you gave to your servant my father David.”
27Then he said, “But will God really live on the earth? Heaven itself is not able to hold you, much less this house that I have built. 28Hear your servant’s prayer, O LORD, and heed the cry and the prayer your servant raises to you today. 29Watch over this temple night and day, for you have said, ‘My name shall dwell there.’ Hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30Hear the cry of your servant, and of all the people of Israel, when we pray toward this place. Oh, hear us in your dwelling place in heaven! Hear us and forgive!
31“If someone wrongs a neighbor and is required to take an oath and comes before your altar in this house and makes that promise, 32then hear from heaven and pass judgment on your servants. Condemn those who are guilty and make them suffer their conduct, and reward those who are obedient.
33“When Israel is defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, but then turn back to you and call on your name and beg your mercy in this temple, 34then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people and resettle them in the land you gave their forebearers.
35“When the clouds are shut up and cannot provide rain because the people have sinned, then if they pray toward this place and call on your name and turn away from their sinfulness because you have punished them, 36hear from heaven and forgive their sin, and teach them again the way they should live. Then send rain on this land you have given them as an inheritance.
37Whenever there is famine, or plague, or blight, or mildew, or locusts, or worms, or if any of their cities is attacked by an enemy, then whatever the plague or sickness; 38whatever the prayer or plea there is from anyone or from all of your people together who know that they have sinned, when they raise their hands in prayer toward this temple, forgive them. 39Come to their aid and help all those whose hearts you know — for you alone truly know the human heart — 40so that they will respect you all their lives in the land you gave their forebearers.
41“In the same way, when a foreigner comes from a far country to seek you, 42(for they shall hear of your great name, and your powerful hand, and your long-reaching arm), and prays toward this temple, 43then hear in heaven, and answer the foreigner’s prayer. Then everyone in the world will know and revere your name, as do your people Israel, and they will know that they have called on your name in this house which I have built for you.
44“If your people go to war against their enemy wherever you send them, and they pray to you toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for you, 45then hear their prayer and their plea, and help them.
46“When your people sin against you — for no one is perfect — and in your anger you allow their enemy to be victorious, and they are carried away as prisoners to their enemy’s land whether far or near; 47then if they come to their senses in that foreign land and regret their sin, and beg you, and plead, ‘We have sinned! We have done wrong! We have behaved foolishly!’ 48and turn back to you heart and soul in their captivity and pray facing the land you gave their ancestor and the house I have built for your name, 49then hear their prayer and their plea from your throne in heaven. Take up their cause 50and forgive them for all their transgressions and have compassion for them in the sight of their captors so that their captors may also have compassion for them. 51After all, they are your people. You brought them out of that iron-smelting furnace, Egypt.
52“Always be willing to hear the plea of your servant and your people Israel and hear them when they call. 53After all, you took them from among all the people of the earth to be your inheritance as you promised your servant Moses when you brought them out of Egypt, O LORD God.”
54When Solomon finished his prayer he stood up, still facing the altar of the LORD where he had been kneeling with outstretched hands, 55then turned to bless all the people of Israel gathered there, and in a loud voice he said, 56“Praise to the LORD who has settled his people Israel as promised! Not one word, not one promise of the LORD spoken through Moses has failed. 57May the LORD our God be with us as the LORD was with our forebearers; may the LORD never abandon us. 58But let us turn our hearts toward the LORD, and walk in the ways of the LORD, and keep the LORD’s laws and commandments and rules which were given to our ancestors. 59Let these words I have raised be near our God day and night, and may God always keep the cause of the people of Israel each and every day as needed. 60And may all the people of the earth know that the LORD is God, and no other. 61Therefore, completely give yourselves to keeping all the laws and commandments of the LORD we have received to this day.”
62Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices to the LORD. 63Solomon himself offered twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred twenty thousand sheep. And so, the house of the LORD was dedicated by the king and the people. 64On the same day the king dedicated the middle courtyard in front of the temple. That is where he offered grain and burnt offerings and the fatty parts of the peace sacrifices, because the bronze altar before the sanctuary was too small to accommodate all the sacrifices.65And so it was that Solomon conducted the festival along with the people of Israel who had gathered from Lebo-Hamath to the Wadi of Egypt for seven days, and then seven days more — fourteen in all. 66Then he sent the people away and they cheered the king as they went to their homes, in good spirits because of all the good things the LORD had done for his servant David and his people Israel.
1-13: A procession is arranged to transfer the covenant chest into the newly constructed temple. The timing of this account is curious. Solomon took 7 years to build the temple and 13 years to build his palace and administrative buildings. It would seem that the palace was not begun until the temple was completed, but here it appears that the temple is the last thing Solomon constructs. In chapter 9, however, it is clearly stated that the two building projects took twenty years (9:10). The covenant chest has been kept in a tent to this point. Now it is brought to its new place under the giant cherubim. There is nothing in the chest but the Ten Commandments. During the procession countless sheep and oxen are slaughtered, making it a memorable occasion for all who were there. When the priests deposit the chest, the temple is filled with a cloud; in this case it may be due to the excessive burning of incense in the enclosed space of the inner sanctuary. Solomon does everything in excess, doesn’t he? Solomon declares that he has built a house for God to dwell in forever. You sort of get the impression that he is trying to capture God.
14-21: For the dedication, Solomon first speaks to the people, recounting the events that led to his building of the temple.
22-26: Then he addresses the LORD in prayer, reminding God that he had promised David’s dynasty would last forever and asks God to confirm the promise.
27-30: Solomon asks that God hear the prayers that are prayed toward the temple.
31-32: The remainder of Solomon’s prayer addresses a number of specific issues that might be brought before the LORD. This first one has to do with disputes between neighbors when one wrongs the other.
33-34: This part of the prayer seems to anticipate the Babylonian exile that is still hundreds of years in the future, but could just as well refer to prisoners of war being returned home after any battle.
35-36: Drought is a constant worry in a climate that does not produce a great deal of rain even in normal years. The interesting thing is that Solomon assumes that if there is a drought it must be the result of some sin of the people.
37-40: Other perils are enumerated. Again, the main emphasis is on confession and forgiveness. I wonder how often we, in praying for our own troubles, stop to consider that perhaps we should confess our sins and ask to be forgiven before our troubles are taken away.
41-43: Solomon even asks that the prayers of foreigners be heard if they pray toward the temple to the LORD. The purpose of God answering such prayers is so that God (and Solomon’s temple) will become famous beyond the borders of Israel.
44-45: A prayer that God hears the prayers of the armies as they prepare for battle.
46-53: This part of the prayer certainly seems to apply to the Babylonian exile.
54-61: Solomon concludes his prayers with a blessing of the people.
62-66: Twenty two thousand oxen and 120,000 sheep are slaughtered and offered as sacrifices for the dedication of the temple. All the people partake in the festival and go home happy.
Solomon’s elaborate dedication of the temple reminds us of the dedication of the sanctuary tent Moses built in the wilderness. This account is all about the magnificent building, though, and barely mentions the sacred tools and objects used in the worship rituals and sacrifices, or the priests and Levites who did all the work. The people all go home happy, but take note that when the chapter began, “King Solomon summoned all the elders and family heads and officials of Israel to come to him in Jerusalem” (verse 1). That’s a lot of people but doesn’t include the tens of thousands of people he drafted to forced labor to provide all the material for the magnificent buildings, plus those who have been providing for the king’s table since the beginning of his reign (chapter 4). When Solomon dies, will his successor be able to hold the kingdom together? You don’t have to look it up. I’ll give you the answer: No.