The Word Made Fresh
1When Solomon finished his prayer, fire fell from heaven and burned up the offerings and sacrifices, and the LORD’s shining presence filled the temple. 2The priests could not enter the temple because of it. 3When the people saw it they fell face down on the pavement and worshiped and expressed their gratitude toward the LORD, saying, “The LORD is good, whose love is never ending.”
4The king and all the people offered sacrifices to the LORD. 5King Solomon offered twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred twenty thousand sheep, and the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. 6The priests were at their stations and the Levites stood with the musical instruments king David had made. They had accompanied king David whenever he gave thanks to the LORD “whose love is never ending.” Across from the Levites the priests blew their trumpets and all the Israelites rose to their feet.
7Solomon designated the middle of the court in front of the LORD’s house as a sacred space, for it was there that he gave the burnt offerings and the fat portions of the peace offerings because the bronze altar couldn’t contain all the burnt offerings and grain offerings and peace offerings.
8Solomon extended the festival for seven days and a huge gathering of the people of Israel joined him, from Lebo-Hamath to the streambed of Egypt. 9They solemnly gathered again on the eighth day after having observed the dedication of the altar and the festival for seven days. 10On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people home. They were filled with joy and were in good spirits because of the rewards God had given David and Solomon and the people of Israel.
11So, the house of the LORD and the king’s house were finished; Solomon had done everything he had planned to do for both dwellings. 12Then the LORD appeared to him at night and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this house for myself as a place of sacrifice. 13When I shut the sky so that there is no rain, or order locusts to eat up the land, or send disease among my people, 14then if my people who are called by my name become humble and pray and turn to me and away from their sinful ways, I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin, and heal their land. 15My eyes will see and my ears will hear prayers that are made in this place. 16I have chosen this house and set it aside, and my name shall be there from now on. My eyes and my heart will be there forever. 17And if you live in my presence as your father David did, and do everything I have commanded you to do, and keep my rules and laws, 18I will establish your royal throne as I promised your father David, for I told him he would always have a successor to rule Israel.
19“However, if all of you turn away from me and ignore my laws and commandments that I have given you and begin to serve and worship other gods, 20I will remove Israel from the land I have given them, and this house I have claimed will be cast away. It will become no more than a dim memory and an old adage among all the nations; 21and as far as this house is concerned, everyone who sees it will wonder why the LORD did such a thing to the land and to this house. 22They’ll say, “It happened because the people turned their backs on the LORD God of their forebearers who brought them out of Egypt; they turned to other gods and served and worshiped them. That’s why the LORD God did this to them.”
1-3: At this point Chronicles differs from the account given in 1 Kings. There (1 Kings 8:54-61) Solomon arises from his prayer and gives a lengthy blessing for the people. Here, however, it is God who momentarily takes center stage. The chronicler reports that fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices (although as yet there has been no description of sacrifices made at the temple, just the ones offered on the way as the ark was brought up), and the priests are not able to enter the sanctuary because the “LORD’s shining presence” is there. The people bow and worship on the spot and bless God with another line from the Psalms.
4-6: Extravagant numbers of animals are offered for sacrifice. The chronicler also notes that the priests are where they are supposed to be and doing what they are supposed to be doing – this detail is missing from the 1 Kings account.
7: Solomon also consecrates the central area of the temple compound because that immense bronze altar is much too small to accommodate the sacrificing of 142,000 animals.
8-10: 1 Kings 8:65-66 told us that Solomon sent the people away on the eighth day. The chronicler, however, tells us that on the eighth day a solemn assembly is held. Only then does Solomon send them home, “joyful and in good spirits.”
11: So, the temple is finished and consecrated and ready for use.
12-18: (Reference to 1 Kings 9:1-5.) The LORD appears to Solomon a second time, again in the night (a detail missing in 1 Kings), presumably again in a dream, although that is not specified, to assure Solomon that God has accepted the temple as a place for sacrifice. Referencing Solomon’s earlier prayer from 6:26 and 6:28, God assures him that “if my people who are called by my name become humble and pray and turn to me and away from their sinful ways, I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin, and heal their land.” This promise is not in the 1 Kings account.
19-22: Solomon is warned, however, that if the people turn aside (the “you” in verse 19 is plural and refers to Israel collectively, unlike the “you” in 1 Kings 9:6 which is singular and refers to Solomon only) from following God, they will be exiled and the temple destroyed, and everyone will know it happens because they have abandoned the “God of their ancestors.”
Solomon’s performance so far has been stellar, and although I have been a bit harsh in pointing out his obvious self-importance, he was after all the king, and the people obviously look to him for guidance and example. The author(s) of 2 Chronicles also clearly want to erase every mention of any imperfection in either David or Solomon.
We sometimes do that to our own leaders – governors and presidents and, yes, pastors. But human beings are fallible creatures, saved by, and only by, the grace of God.