1 Kings 7: Solomon Builds His Palace, The Temple’s Furnishings
Chapter 6 covered most of the construction of the Temple, ending with these words:
The foundation of the temple of the LORD was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it. (6:37–38, emphasis added)
Seven years to spend on a building sounds like a lot, until we get to the first verse of this chapter:
It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace. (verse 1, emphasis added)
The author(s) of 1 Kings don’t feel a need to hide their feelings on Solomon’s priorities between the temple and the palace. I’m also struck by the dimensions of the two structures:
- The Temple: sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high, so 36,000 cubic cubits (that is, about 27 metres long, 9 metres wide and 14 metres high, so 3,400 cubic metres)
- The Palace: a hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high, so 150,000 cubic cubits (that is, about 45 metres long, 23 metres wide and 14 metres high, so 14,500 cubic metres)
So the Temple—which, as mentioned in the last passage, is sometimes considered one of the wonders of the ancient world—is about a quarter the size of the palace!
To be fair, the “palace” described in this chapter did include a few things:
- The Hall of Justice
- A palace for Solomon’s living quarters
- A separate palace/living quarters for the daughter of the Pharaoh
- Something called the The Palace of the Forest of Lebanon (which the ESV Study Bible notes consider to be a separate building, though I’d initially read that as the name of the entirety of the structure(s) described in this chapter)
After the digression of verses 1–12 in which Solomon’s palace(s) are described, the text gets back to the Temple. Solomon has a man named Huram1 brought from Tyre, who was, “… a skilled craftsman in bronze. Huram was filled with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him” (verse 14).
Verses 15–40 outline the many things Huram built for Solomon, much of which is self-explanatory except for the Sea, for which I’ll quote the ESV Study Bible notes (since a piece of architecture called a “Sea” isn’t something modern readers might be familiar with):
1 Kings 7:23–47 … The sea of cast metal was a large metal basin designed to contain water, representing the forces of chaos subdued and brought to order by the Lord, who is Creator of the world (cf. Gen. 1:1–2:3; Ps. 74:12–17; 89:5–12; 93:1–5). Associated with the sea are ten stands of bronze (1 Kings 7:27), decorated with lions, oxen, and cherubim (v. 29), each designed to hold a basin smaller than the sea (vv. 30, 38). Five stands with their basins were placed on the south side of the temple along with the sea, and five on the north (v. 39). The basins of v. 40 are not those of vv. 38–39, but different utensils used in cleaning out the altar (cf. Ex. 27:3); the pots and shovels would also have been used for this purpose.
Finally, the chapter ends with Solomon bringing in all of the items his father David had dedicated to the Temple and placing them in its treasury.
No thoughts on this passage, other than to reemphasize how much more time and effort went into the building of the palace than the Temple. As I’ve mentioned before, the two things Solomon were known for were his wisdom and his wealth, and this chapter seems to indicate that his wealth sometimes got in the way of his devotion to the LORD. Given Jesus’ warnings about how difficult it is for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven that shouldn’t surprise us! (See Matthew 19:16–30 (and a follow up post on that passage), Mark 10:17–31, and Luke 18:18–30.)
It’s safe to say I’m not reading too much into the passage since the author(s) of 1 Kings had to interrupt a long section on the building of the Temple—which is the main point of chapters 6–8 (and a bit of 9)—to talk about the time and expense Solomon put into the palace. Overall, when I think about the building of the Temple, I often think of Solomon’s dedication of it and I’m generally feeling pretty favourable about his approach to that, but the first half of this chapter reminds us that he valued some things more than he should have. (I hesitate to say that he valued his own house more than he valued the house of God, but… the comparative time and effort spent on each really makes it seem that way.)
The takeaway should be for me to examine my own life: if someone were to look at how I spend my money—all of it—would they come away with the impression that I value God more, or that I value my own comfort more?
The footnote says that the Hebrew version of this name is Hiram, which is the name used in the ESV. I didn’t check other versions. ↩︎