Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament1 KINGS 6
THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE IN SEVEN YEARS
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of Jehovah.
This is by far the most important verse in this whole chapter, the remainder of it being devoted to the dimensions and other details of the Temple, which should be of little or no interest at all for Christians. The interest that focuses on this first verse, however, is acute and sustained because of its bearing upon the date of the Exodus. The Encyclopaedia Britannica gives the date of Solomon's enthronement as 974 B. C.;F1 and thus the fourth year of his reign would have been in the year 970 B.C. Adding 480 years prior to that would therefore place the Exodus in the year 1450 B.C., a date which corresponds almost exactly with the date of 1446 B.C. (which this writer confidently assigned to the Exodus in his commentary on the Pentateuch, Vol. 2, p. xiv).
The date of the Exodus arbitrarily assigned by many critics (1250-1225 B.C.) is some two centuries later than the true date; and it is impossible to substantiate it. Their theories are effectively contradicted by this verse. Of course, when critics find themselves contradicted by the sacred text, their knee-jerk response is to scream INTERPOLATION! However, there is no evidence whatever that 1 Kings 6:1 is an interpolation. This writer will never consent to allow evil critics whose purpose is almost totally destructive to re-write the Word of God to suit their false allegations!
Yes, it is true that in the O.T. there are found certain numbers concerning which questions may be raised as to their dependability. For example, due to the Hebrew system of writing numbers, four may be confused with forty, or two may be confused with twenty; but no such questions are raised with reference to this verse.
John T. Gates writing in Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary noted that, "The earlier date of the Exodus (1440) is in substantial agreement with Gen. 15:13; Exo. 12:40,41; and Judg. 11:26, where Jephthah indicates that Israel had been in Canaan 300 years."F2 Also, fully in harmony with those Scriptures is the apostle Paul's designation of a period of 450 years between the Conquest and the monarchy (Acts 13:20). Although it is a fact that the exact period of time in these Scriptures is not always clearly distinguished, this verse in 1 Kings 6:1 is definitely applied to the exact period between the crossing of the Red Sea and the fourth year of the reign of Solomon.
Dr. Elton Stubblefield, M.D., a noted research scientist with the M.D. Anderson Foundation for many years, and one of the most brilliant Bible scholars this writer has ever consulted, commented on the accuracy of this verse. "It has definite beginning and end points; and, considering its importance, linking the Exodus with the Temple, every scribe who ever copied this statement must surely have taken the greatest care to get it right. Anyone who would claim that 1 Kings 6:1 is a mistake has no confidence in the inspiration of Scripture."F3
Dr. Stubblefield is also a remarkably well-informed scholar in the field of Egyptology; and he has pointed out overwhelmingly convincing evidence from Egyptian history which fully corroborates the 1446 B.C. (approximately) date of the Exodus. For the first time, it is now evident that the Pharaoh who was drowned in the Red Sea was Amenhotep II of the 18th Dynasty; and the Pharaoh who succeeded him was Tuthmosis IV, who was not the first-born son (who had perished on the night of the Passover), The claim of Tuthmosis IV to the throne of his father was founded, not on the premise of his being the first-born (which he was not) but upon a dream which he claimed to have had while resting between the paws of the Sphinx! Yes, Margaret Bunson gives the date of Amenhotep II's death and the accession of Tuthmosis IV as 1401 B.C.;F4 but that discrepancy is so slight as to be of no significance. All scholars admit that all Egyptian dates should be viewed as plus or minus 50 years.
Further proof of the early Exodus in 1446 B.C. is found in the Tel el-Amarna letters, in which there is a letter written from Palestine to Amenhotep III, complaining that the Hebrews were taking over the land; and that is calculated to have been in the year 1391 B.C., the date when Amenhotep III succeeded Tuthmosis IV as Pharaoh!F5 If the critics are correct in dating the Exodus two hundred years after it actually happened, how were the Hebrews in Palestine in 1391 B.C.?
This is by no means all of the rapidly expanding evidence of the accuracy of the early date for the Exodus, but we consider this far more than enough to establish it as certain.
We shall now include the rest of this chapter with its details of that marvelous Temple.
VARIOUS DIMENSIONS OF THE TEMPLE COMPLEX
And the house which king Solomon built for Jehovah, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty [cubits], and the height thereof thirty cubits. And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; [and] ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house. And for the house he made windows of fixed lattice-work. And against the wall of the house he built stories round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the oracle; and he made side-chambers round about. The nethermost story was five cubits broad, and the middle was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad; for on the outside he made offsets [in the wall] of the house round about, that [the beams] should not have hold in the walls of the house. And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready at the quarry; and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building. The door for the middle side-chambers was in the right side of the house: and they went up by winding stairs into the middle [story], and out of the middle into the third. So he built the house, and finished it; and he covered the house with beams and planks of cedar. And he built the stories against all the house, each five cubits high: and they rested on the house with timber of cedar.
GOD'S SPECIAL WORD TO SOLOMON
And the word of Jehovah came to Solomon, saying, Concerning this house which thou art building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute mine ordinances, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I establish my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.
Needless to say, Solomon paid no attention whatever to the implied warning of this word.
THE HOLY OF HOLIES WAS OVERLAID WITH PURE GOLD
So Solomon built the house, and finished it. And he built the walls of the house within with boards of cedar: from the floor of the house unto the walls of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood; and he covered the floor of the house with boards of fir. And he built twenty cubits on the hinder part of the house with boards of cedar from the floor unto the walls [of the ceiling]: he built [them] for it within, for an oracle, even for the most holy place. And the house, that is, the temple before [the oracle], was forty cubits [long]. And there was cedar on the house within, carved with knops and open flowers: all was cedar; there was no stone seen. And he prepared an oracle in the midst of the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of Jehovah. And within the oracle was [a space of] twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof; and he overlaid it with pure gold: and he covered the altar with cedar. So Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold: and he drew chains of gold across before the oracle; and he overlaid it with gold. And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until all the house was finished: also the whole altar that belonged to the oracle he overlaid with gold.
It is clear that, in a general sense, Solomon built the temple somewhat after the pattern of the Tabernacle which God had given to Moses, although approximately doubling the dimensions of some portions of it. However, there is no statement here that Solomon followed any divine instructions whatever, either in the kinds of wood used, or in the lavish expenditure of incredible wealth in the use of pure gold to overlay the whole building.
DECORATIONS WITHIN THE HOLY OF HOLIES
And in the oracle he made two cherubim of olive-wood, each ten cubits high. And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other wing of the cherub: from the uttermost part of the one wing unto the uttermost part of the other were ten cubits. And the other cherub was ten cubits: both the cherubim were of one measure and one form. The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was it of the other cherub. And he set the cherubim within the inner house; and the wings of the cherubim were stretched forth, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house. And he overlaid the cherubim with gold.
In this is seen Solomon's utter disregard of the pattern which God gave Moses for the Tabernacle. It will be recalled that in those heavenly instructions, the cherubim were miniatures, designed as a decoration for the covering of Ark of the Covenant; but here they were made large enough to fill up the entire breadth of the Holy of Holies half way to the ceiling. It is perfectly clear to any unbiased observer that Solomon was doing his own thing here and not the will of God.
DESCRIPTION OF OTHER TEMPLE DECORATIONS
And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubim and palm-trees and open flowers, within and without. And the floor of the house he overlaid with gold, within and without. And for the entrance of the oracle he made doors of olive-wood: the lintel [and] door-posts were a fifth part [of the wall]. So [he made] two doors of olive-wood; and he carved upon them carvings of cherubim and palm-trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold; and he spread the gold upon the cherubim, and upon the palm-trees. So also made he for the entrance of the temple door-posts of olive-wood, out of a fourth part [of the wall]; and two doors of fir-wood: the two leaves of the one door were folding, and the two leaves of the other door were folding. And he carved [thereon] cherubim and palm-trees and open flowers; and he overlaid them with gold fitted upon the graven work. And he built the inner court with three courses of hewn stone, and a course of cedar beams.
Where was the veil which God had ordained to screen off the Holy of Holies? Apparently, Solomon left it out! Of course, that was specifically the part of the Tabernacle that typified Jesus Christ our Lord; and true to the genius of every innovator Solomon managed to get rid of it (at least, as is indicated here). When the Temple was rebuilt, in the times after the captivity, the Veil was again included, as it most certainly should have been here (Matthew 27:51).
THE TEMPLE WAS FINISHED AFTER SEVEN YEARS
Verses 37, 38
In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of Jehovah laid, in the month Ziv. And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.
We are passing all of this chapter with very little comment. No engineer could build it from the dimensions and instructions given here, and the wisest scholars have never agreed on the various details, but the view of this writer is that they simply are lacking of any vital Christian interest. It was an extravagantly costly and beautiful structure, but that ancient Temple carries no mandate whatever for the people of God in the twentieth century.
This writer was privileged to lead in building a church house in the heart of Manhattan, and the average cost per workman per day was about $100.00. On that basis, if we calculate the cost of Solomon's Temple on the basis of the labor alone during a period of seven and one-half years, at present day rates, the labor alone would have amounted to more than $28,000,000,000.00! And that says nothing of the pure gold!
Footnotes for 1 Kings 6
1: Encyclopdeia Britannica, Vol. 20, p. 952.
2: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 316.
3: Elton Stubblefield, quoted from a signed dissertation in this writer's possession.
4: Margaret Bunson, The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1991), p. 71.
5: W. F. Albright and George E. Mendenhall, with a few corrections by W. L. Moran, R. A. xix, Letter No. 106.