1 Kings 8:1–9:9: The Ark Brought to the Temple, Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication, The Dedication of the Temple, The LORD Appears to Solomon
A lot happens in these passages but they all felt thematically related so I included them in one post.
As this passage opens Solomon has now built the Temple but he hasn’t yet “opened” it—that is, it hasn’t been dedicated to the LORD, and it’s not yet being used for worship. So he gathers the Israelites to Jerusalem and has the Ark brought from the City of David1. The Ark is still in the Tent of Meeting, so the priests and the Levites bring the Ark, the Tent, and all of the furnishings. As they go, “King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted” (verse 8:5).
The priests bring the Ark into the inner sanctuary of the Temple, the Most Holy Place. I’m not sure what they were expecting to do next; it seems like they were planning to start some form of their duties but they can’t because as soon as the Ark is in the Most Holy Place the glory of the LORD fills the Temple. Verses 8:10–11 alternate between calling it “the cloud” and “the glory of the LORD,” so the author(s) seem to assume that readers will be able to figure out on their own that the terms are synonymous.
Solomon responds to this:
Then Solomon said, “The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.” (verses 8:12–13)
And I’m… not exactly sure what Solomon means by this. I’m assuming that “The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud” is a reference to something, but I’m not sure what. However, as the ESV Study Bible notes point out:
1 Kings 8:12–13 The coming of the ark to the temple and the appearance of the cloud of God’s glory are sure signs that the new worship arrangements have the divine blessing (notice the connection to the thick darkness in Ex. 20:21; Deut. 4:11; 5:22). The God of the exodus and Sinai has come to dwell in his temple.
He then addresses the people:
While the whole assembly of Israel was standing there, the king turned around and blessed them. Then he said:
“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his own hand has fulfilled what he promised with his own mouth to my father David. For he said, ‘Since the day I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city in any tribe of Israel to have a temple built so that my Name might be there, but I have chosen David to rule my people Israel.’
“My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’
“The LORD has kept the promise he made: I have succeeded David my father and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the LORD promised, and I have built the temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our ancestors when he brought them out of Egypt.”
After this, in 8:22–53, he prays what I assume to be a very famous prayer—it’s definitely one I remember—and there are a lot of points covered in it:
|23–24||There is no god like the God, who keeps His covenants, as evidenced by this fulfillment of the covenant He made with David.|
|25–26||He asks God to keep fulfilling that covenant and keep a descendent of David on the throne forever.|
|27–30||He almost seems to second guess himself for a second, asking a rhetorical question: can God really dwell in a Temple? A man-made structure—even one as fancy as the one that has just been constructed here? Nevertheless, he prays that God would ever be attentive to the prayers of supplication that His people issue from (or toward) this Temple. Much of the rest of the prayer is devoted to examples of the types of prayer that Solomon beseeches the LORD to be attentive to.|
|31–32||When someone wrongs their neighbour and is required to take an oath before the altar—I’m assuming this is a reference to one of the Old Testament laws, but I don’t know which and don’t know a quick way of looking it up—then the LORD should listen, condemning the guilty.|
|33–34||When Israel sins against God and He lets them be defeated by their enemies, and then the people return to Him in repentance, he asks God to forgive their sin and return them to the land—which infers that Solomon is envisioning more than a simple defeat in battle, he’s anticipating the Israelites actually being carried away from the Promised Land!|
|35–36||Similarly, when God sends a drought as punishment for sin and the people repent, he doesn’t just ask God to send the rain again, he also asks God to teach His people the right way to live. And maybe this seems unnecessary—they do have the Scriptures, after all!—but there will come times later on in Old Testament history in which the people will forget God’s ways, and He will need to remind them.|
|37–40||He prays something very similar for cases of famine or plague, or enemies besieging them, except that in these particular verses he doesn’t explicitly call out the people being punished for sin. Maybe he’s taking that part for granted, or maybe he’s assuming that things will happen to the Israelites even when they aren’t specific punishments for specific sins, but their response should be the same: dependence on God.|
|41–43||When a foreigner prays toward the Temple—for, he says, they will definitely hear about the might of the LORD—he asks God to answer those prayers, too, “so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.”|
|44–45||When the people are at war with their enemies and pray toward the Temple, Solomon asks that God would uphold their cause.|
And then he gives a kind of catch-all prayer about the people’s sin:
“When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to their own lands, far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their captors to show them mercy; for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.
“May your eyes be open to your servant’s plea and to the plea of your people Israel, and may you listen to them whenever they cry out to you. For you singled them out from all the nations of the world to be your own inheritance, just as you declared through your servant Moses when you, Sovereign LORD, brought our ancestors out of Egypt.”
After his prayer he turns back around to address the people again:
“Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. And may your hearts be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” (verses 8:56–61)
This has all been preamble and Solomon is now ready to dedicate the Temple for use, offering up 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. Which is normally supposed to happen on the bronze altar, however, there are so many animals being sacrificed that Solomon has to temporarily have the entire Temple courtyard sanctified for that use!
All this being done, Solomon and the people celebrate a festival for fourteen days before he finally sends the people home, quite content: “They blessed the king and then went home, joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the LORD had done for his servant David and his people Israel” (verse 8:66).
Then, in 9:1–9, God appears to Solomon and gives a response to his prayer:
When Solomon had finished building the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the LORD appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. The LORD said to him:
“I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’
“But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the LORD their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the LORD brought all this disaster on them.’”
This passage includes a prayer of Solomon’s that, as mentioned, I’m assuming is famous. If you’re going to dedicate a temple to God, this is a very good example of how to do it!
A main thought I have about this passage is how much foreshadowing there is! All of Solomon’s supplications, as well as the LORD’s warnings, are sadly going to come to pass over the course of the rest of Israelite history.
If we just read the Old Testament in isolation it seems like a huge disconnect. Why did God give His people all of these instructions and laws and rules if He knew that they were going to disobey Him? Was He setting them up to fail? (Or, worse yet, if He didn’t know, is such a God—with such limited understanding and knowledge—worth worshipping?)
But when we read it in context of the New Testament, and the work that Jesus accomplished for us, we can see that there is a very important message coming out of the Old Testament: we (humans) are not capable of being righteous on our own. There isn’t a single person mentioned in the Bible who was perfect; even the best of them made mistakes—that is, committed sins—which wouldn’t be so bad if God “graded on the curve,” but He doesn’t, He demands perfection. So if King David wasn’t perfect, or Solomon, or even Moses, how am I going to be perfect? But God has always known that, and it was always in His plan for His Son to accomplish what we couldn’t.
A lot of Christian preachers point out the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t “Plan B.” It’s not like God gave His people a bunch of rules, then found out they hadn’t obeyed them, and then rushed to come up with another way of approaching things; He gave His people a number of rules and all along the way they should have been seeing that:
- This God is pretty amazing, as revealed in these rules, and
- It’s a good thing He’s forgiving, because we’re not very obedient!
So, in light of what we learn in the New Testament—especially Jesus’ teachings, in which he points out that obedience to God was always a lot more difficult than we thought it was!—it shouldn’t surprise us that God’s people are going to fail Him. It should cause us to worship Him for His love and forgiveness!
Let’s not throw stones
Along those lines, I think it’s easy for modern readers to read through the Old Testament stories without that New Testament context in mind, and if we’re not careful it can make us judgemental of the Old Testament Israelites. We read about Israel failing over and over again and there’s a temptation for a little voice in the back of our heads to say that we wouldn’t have failed in those ways! We wouldn’t have let God down over and over again—not like they did!
And if we do have those thoughts we should stop and look at our own lives. While we’re judging the Old Testament Israelites for for worshipping idols, have we ever put the pursuit of money ahead of holiness? While we’re judging the Old Testament Israelites for sexual immorality, have we ever consumed porn? (Or sought out movies/TV shows that we knew would be titillating in unwholesome ways?) While we’re judging the Old Testament Israelites for neglecting the poor, have we done exactly the same thing?
If we read the Old Testament in judgement of the Israelites we’re really missing the point, but if we read it as a mirror of our own sinfulness—and, therefore, our need of Jesus’ work on our behalf—then we’re closer to what I believe is the original intent.
The Number of Sacrifices
I’m probably overthinking this (and not giving Solomon his due), but part of me wonders if the number of sacrifices made here were… excessive? Which is a weird thing to say—no number of sacrifices could ever be adequate—but, at the same time, no number of sacrifices could ever be adequate. (That is, after all, the reason Jesus came!) By no means am I saying that Solomon should have just sacrificed a single bull and left it at that; my overall impression of these passages is an impression of a man (Solomon) who is dedicated to his God, and willing to sacrifice whatever he can to show his adoration. And I had no similar thoughts in a previous passage when Solomon’s father David was moving the Ark and sacrificing countless animals in the process.
But part of me is wondering at what point the sacrifices stop being about the LORD and start being about Solomon instead.
Probably an overreaction to something that wasn’t even there. In fact, verses 33–34 (in which Solomon prays about the people being carried away into captivity) indicate to me that he knows the books of Moses and the promises God made about letting exactly that happen to His people if they didn’t obey Him. So Solomon has been reading his Scriptures and taking to heart what is written there!
The Prayer of Dedication
The prayer in this passage is one of the things I remember the most when I think of Solomon. The fact that he let himself be led astray by his wives is near the top of the list, and the wisdom is of course there, and maybe the wealth (though I’ll admit that it’s not really something I personally focus on), but the first thing I think of with regard to Solomon is this prayer.
I’ve spent so much time in 1 Kings blogging about Solomon being consumed by his faults, yet before this thoughts of Solomon would always be warm and complimentary because of this prayer. Chances are that will become my default reaction again, once I’ve passed through this part of the Bible and am not looking into Solomon’s life so critically again…
Supplications and Commands
Some of the statements here sound almost more like commands than requests; Solomon’s language sometimes sounds like he’s telling God what to do, rather than asking Him to do it. However, I think this is a translation issue rather than the reality of the situation: to me, the overall tone of the prayer shows Solomon’s heart to be in the right place.
If anything, in some cases I think he’s simply asking God to do things that he already knows God is going to do anyway. In other words, I think parts of this prayer are just like some of my own prayers! I don’t pray to God, “please be with me in this hard time,” and then finish praying and think to myself, “Gosh, I hope God really will be with me!” I know He will. Praying for God to be with me isn’t so much a “request” as it is a reminder to my own self, for my own comfort. And when Solomon prays that God would hear the prayers of His people, I think it’s very much in that line: of course God will hear their prayers—how could He not?—and for thousands of years people have read this prayer from Solomon and been reminded of that fact.
Side note: I thought the City of David was Jerusalem but apparently not! Only part of Jerusalem is the City of David. From Wikipedia: “The City of David (Hebrew: עיר דוד, romanized: Īr Davīd) is a historic name given to an archaeological site on the southeast hill of contemporary East Jerusalem, which is thought to constitute the original settlement core of Jerusalem during the Bronze Age and Iron Ages. The site is believed to be the former royal city of the Israelite king David, from whom it takes its name, and is a holy site for Jews, Christians and Muslims.” ↩︎
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