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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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1 KINGS 7

FURTHER DESCRIPTION OF SOLOMON'S BUILDINGS

"This sad narrative of Solomon reveals to us, and modern research confirms it, that the purple of Solomon had a very seamy side. Beneath the glittering surface of his splendor there was a groaning abyss of misery and wretchedness. Jerusalem, during the twenty years of building summarized at the beginning of this chapter, was a disastrous spectacle of task-masters, armed with rods and whips, enforcing the toil of gangs of slaves, just as we may see them depicted upon the tombs of Egypt and Assyria."F1

Furthermore, these elaborate descriptions of Solomon's buildings, especially of the Temple, are loaded with evidences of Solomon's disregard of God's commandments and of his bringing into his Temple elements of paganism which he mingled with some of the features of the Tabernacle which he supposedly copied, but did not, in reality, do any such thing.

We shall not attempt to give the reader any accurate description of the buildings and other articles mentioned in this chapter, for the simple reason that such a description is utterly impossible.

Again from Farrar, "The elaborate particulars furnished here are architecturally insufficient to enable us to reconstruct the building, or even to form any more than a vague conception of the building's external appearance. The Biblical accounts both in Kings and Chronicles are independent and incomplete extracts, giving in the aggregate only a vague impression."F2

SOLOMON'S CONSTRUCTION OF THE PALACE COMPOUND


 
Verses 1-8
And Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house. For he built the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was a hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars. And it was covered with cedar above over the forty and five beams, that were upon the pillars; fifteen in a row. And there were beams in three rows, and window was over against window in three ranks. And all the doors and posts were made square with beams: and window was over against window in three ranks. And he made the porch of pillars; the length thereof was fifty cubits, and the breadth thereof thirty cubits; and a porch before them; and pillars and a threshold before them. And he made the porch of the throne where he was to judge, even the porch of judgment: and it was covered with cedar from floor to floor. And his house where he was to dwell, the other court within the porch, was of the like work. He made also a house for Pharaoh's daughter (whom Solomon had taken to wife), like unto this porch.

And Solomon was building his own house thirteen years
(1). It is amazing to this writer how most of the commentators make excuse for this exceedingly selfish building project on the basis that Solomon saw no need to hurry this as he allegedly did the Temple; and that, after all, David had spent years collecting money and materials for the Temple, which, of course, was not done for Solomon's house! The simple fact remains that Solomon spent nearly twice as much time building his own house as he did the Temple, and presumably twice as much money! Remember the thirteen year's labor of that battalion of 150,000 slaves!

Scholars do not agree as to the nature of this construction, whether it was all in one big complex compound, or if some of the buildings were separated. It is not known why one wife out of the 700 Solomon married should have been singled out to receive a special building, or if, perhaps, her house was merely a section of the harem. Keil pointed out that there are a number of special projects included here: "(1) The house of the forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2-5); (2) The pillar hall and porch (1 Kings 7:6); (3) The throne room and judgment hall (1 Kings 7:7); (4) Solomon's own dwelling; (5) The house for Pharaoh's daughter (1 Kings 7:8)."F3

MORE DETAILS REGARDING CONSTRUCTION


 
Verses 9-12
All these were of costly stones, even of hewn stone, according to measure, sawed with saws, within and without, even from the foundation unto the coping, and so on the outside unto the great court. And the foundation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of ten cubits, and stones of eight cubits. And above were costly stones, even hewn stone, according to measure, and cedar-wood. And the great court round about had three courses of hewn stone, and a course of cedar beams; like as the inner court of the house of Jehovah, and the porch of the house.

This paragraph pertains to the extensive private buildings of Solomon, which either formed a part of the whole complex including the Temple or were located in a large area adjacent to it.

THE CONSTRUCTION OF JACHIN AND BOAZ


 
Verses 13-22
And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill, to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work. For he fashioned the two pillars of brass, eighteen cubits high apiece: and a line of twelve cubits compassed either of them about. And he made two capitals of molten brass, to set upon the tops of the pillars: the height of the one capital was five cubits, and the height of the other capital was five cubits. There were nets of checker-work, and wreaths of chain-work, for the capitals which were upon the top of the pillars; seven for the one capital, and seven for the other capital. So he made the pillars; and there were two rows round about upon the one network, to cover the capitals that were upon the top of the pillars: and so did he for the other capital. And the capitals that were upon the top of the pillars in the porch were of lily-work, four cubits. And there were capitals above also upon the two pillars, close by the belly which was beside the network: and the pomegranates were two hundred, in rows round about upon the other capital. And he set up the pillars at the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin; and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz. And upon the top of the pillars was lily-work: so was the work of the pillars finished.

Only in this paragraph and in the Chronicles parallel does one find anything in all the Bible about these pillars. Where is any record that Solomon was putting these pillars in the Temple by any other authority than that of his own conceited will? Is it not perfectly clear here that Solomon's Temple was not constructed after any pattern whatever that came from God? If any proof was needed, these pillars afford it.

Nothing in the previous history of Israel could possibly have justified Solomon's placement of these pagan pillars in the Temple. They performed no useful function in its construction. "They did not support the roof of the temple hall, but were set up in front of the hall on either side of the entrance."F4 "They were put there simply because such pillars were commonly found in front of other (pagan) temples in the East."F5

There is no agreement whatever as to what they might have symbolized. Their names, Jachin and Boaz, are said to mean, "he shall establish, and in it is strength,"F6 respectively, but the word has no antecedent and is as applicable to Baal as it is to God. Jehovah's name was not on either pillar. God did not name them; Hiram of Tyre did so. And, for all we know, Hiram was a pagan.

The land of Canaan, when Israel entered it, like all pagan lands, was filled with shrines, temples, and high places where pagan worship was conducted. "A common type of Sidonian coinage presents the front of a temple with a tall independent pillar on either side. The temple of Heracles at Tyre had two pillars, one of gold, one of emerald according to Herodotus; and Lucian reported phalli (pillars made like the male sex organ) at the entrance of the goddess' temple."F7 Dentan also found these pillars, "Ultimately connected with the pillars which were set up in Canaanite high places (Deuteronomy 12:3)."F8

The Word of God through Moses specifically commanded Israel to destroy the pagan pillars of the depraved, licentious worship of the Canaanites:

"Ye shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and burn their Asherim with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:3).

Oh yes, the Bible says that Solomon's Temple had pillars, but the Bible nowhere says that God either commanded their erection or approved of them. As far as we have been able to determine, the very next mention of them is in connection with their destruction by the king of Babylon.

And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre
(1 Kings 7:13). This was a different Hiram from the king of Tyre; he was a skilled metal-worker. His father was of Tyre, but his mother was a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, described also as being of the daughters of Dan (2 Chronicles 2:14), meaning that she was of the tribe of Dan by birth, but was a resident of the territory of Naphtali.

There are several discrepancies regarding the height of these pillars and other details in the two accounts, here and in Chronicles, but these are of no significance. One account gives only the height of the pillar itself, while the other includes the capital, the base, and other decorations. This writer favors the longer dimension, because of where the pillars were located, which was not inside the temple, but in FRONT of it. "They flanked the entrance and were fifty-two feet high, the crown alone measuring seven and one half feet."F9 It is of interest that the bronze from which those pillars were made was that which David had taken from the cities of Hadarezer (1 Chronicles 18:8).

Several of the commentators we have consulted seek to find some appropriate historical or religious symbolism in these pillars, but this writer has seen nothing acceptable in any of these.

THE MOLTEN SEA UPON IMAGES OF TWELVE BULLS


 
Verses 23-26
And he made the molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and the height thereof was five cubits; and a line of thirty cubits compassed it round about. And under the brim of it round about there were knops which did compass it, for ten cubits, compassing the sea round about: the knops were in two rows, cast when it was cast. It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east; and the sea was set upon them above, and all their hinder parts were inward. And it was a handbreadth thick: and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily: it held two thousand baths.

Here again, we find Solomon's utter disregard of God's commandment that, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" (Exodus 2:4,5). Even the Jewish historian Josephus agreed that in the images mentioned here, "Solomon sinned, and fell into an error about the observation of the laws, when he made the images of the brazen oxen that supported the brazen sea, and the images of lions about his own throne."F10 Of course, we should not be surprised that some allegedly Christian scholar quickly leaps into the breach in order to justify what Solomon did. Whiston wrote: "Josephus is certainly too severe on Solomon, who in making the cherubim and the twelve brazen oxen seems to have done no more than imitate the patterns left him by David, which were all given David by Divine inspiration!"F11

Indeed! Indeed! And just where does one find all of those Divine instructions that God allegedly gave David for building a temple, which God never wanted in the first place? This writer has never discovered any such instructions in the Bible, and the Jewish historian Josephus also never heard of them. Furthermore, that God's prohibition against such images stood clearly before all Israel also appears in the condemnation of Jeroboam for the bull images that he installed at Dan and in Bethel (1 Kings 12:28,29).

Ten cubits. brim to brim ... thirty cubits compassed it round about
(1 Kings 7:23). Of course, the exact ratio of the diameter and the circumference of a circle is 3.1416 to ten; but only a nit-picker could criticize the round numbers of 3 to 10 (or 10 to 30) which we find here.

It held two thousand baths
(1 Kings 7:26). Nobody knows for sure just what a bath was in terms of gallons, so the scholars guess the contents of the sea anywhere between 10,000 gallons and 17,000 gallons. There is no practical value whatever in knowing what the exact capacity of it really was.

CONSTRUCTION OF THE TEN BASES AND THE LAVERS

And he made the ten bases of brass; four cubits was the length of one base, and four cubits the breadth thereof, and three cubits the height of it. And the work on the bases was of this manner: they had panels, and there were panels between the ledges; and on the panels that were between the ledges were lions, oxen and cherubim; and upon the ledges there was a pedestal above; and beneath the lions and oxen were wreaths of hanging work. And every base had four brazen wheels, and axles of brass; and the four feet thereof had undersetters: beneath the laver were the undersetters molten, with wreaths at the side of each. And the mouth of it within the capital and above was a cubit: and the mouth thereof was round after the `work of a pedestal, a cubit and a half,' and also on the mouth of it were gravings, and their panels were foursquare, not round. And the four wheels were underneath the panels; and the axletrees of the wheels were in the base: and the height of a wheel was a cubit and half a cubit. And the work of the wheels was like the work of a chariot wheel: their axletrees, and their felloes, and their spokes, and their naves, were all molten. And there were four undersetters at the four corners of each base: the undersetters thereof were of the base itself. And in the top of the base there was a round compass half a cubit high; and on the top of the base the stays thereof and the panels thereof were of the same. And on the plates of the stays thereof, he graved cherubim, lions, and palm trees, according to the space of each, with wreaths round about. After this manner he made the ten bases: all of them had one casting, one measure, and one form.

And he made ten lavers of brass: one laver contained forty baths; and every laver was four cubits; and upon every one of the ten bases one laver. And he set the bases, five on the right side of the house, and five on the left side of the house: and he set the sea on the right side of the house, eastward the south."

All of this construction of the molten sea and all the ten lavers on their bases with wheels and fancy decorations appear to have been related in some unknown manner to the laver of the Tabernacle described in Exodus.

It is impossible to conclude from what is written here either what might have been the actual appearance of all these articles, or what particular utility was served by any of them. "This description of both the bases and the lavers which they supported (1 Kings 7:27-39) is extremely obscure. We know however that the bases (as the name implies) were simply the stands or pediments for the lavers which they supported."F12

A KIND OF SUMMARY REGARDING THE BRONZE VESSELS


 
Verses 40-47
And Hiram made the lavers, and the shovels, and the basins. So Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he wrought for king Solomon in the house of Jehovah: the two pillars, and the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the pillars; and the two networks to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the pillars; and the four hundred pomegranates for the two networks; two rows of pomegranates for each network, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were upon the pillars; and the ten bases, and the ten lavers on the bases; and the one sea, and the twelve oxen under the sea; and the pots, and the shovels, and the basins: even all these vessels, which Hiram made for king Solomon, in the house of Jehovah, were of burnished brass. In the plain of the Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan. And Solomon left all the vessels [unweighed], because they were exceeding many: the weight of the brass could not be found out.

Between Succoth and Zarethan
(1 Kings 7:46). This was the nearest place to Jerusalem where the clay was proper for molding these mammoth works of bronze. Recent excavations at the site of Succoth, Tell Deir Alla, reveal that it was a center of metallurgy in the kingdom. The amount of bronze work described in this chapter certainly must have taxed the burgeoning metal industry, which Solomon had established south of the Dead Sea.F13

A SUMMARY OF THE VESSELS OF GOLD


 
Verses 48-50
And Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of Jehovah: the golden altar, and the table whereupon the showbread was, of gold; and the candlesticks, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the oracle, of pure gold; and the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs, of gold; and the cups, and the snuffers, and the basins, and the spoons, and the firepans, of pure gold; and the hinges, both for the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the house, [to wit], of the temple, of gold.

We have here another serious objection to Solomon's Temple. Why should the candlestick have had ten branches? God had specifically required that the sacred candlestick should have three branches on each side (Exodus 25:31,32). Where did Solomon get the idea that there should have been five on each side? He could not have been correct in that change, and, centuries later, when the Jews rebuilt the Temple, they changed some of Solomon's sinful innovations, notably returning to the veil for the Holy of Holies instead of the folding doors, and to the seven-branched candlestick instead of Solomon's ten branched candlestick. This writer has seen the Arch of Titus in Rome, where the looted treasures of the Second Temple are depicted in relief work upon the arch; and the candlestick, borne by several men, has seven branches.

In these drastic changes in the Second Temple from that of Solomon, one must read the repudiation by the post-exilic Jews of Solomon's unauthorized and sinful perversions in his Temple. However, even these repudiations were not sufficient, because the Second Temple, no less than the first, became, in time, as Jesus called it, "A den of thieves" (Matthew 21:13), and this writer finds it impossible to view that remark as a compliment!

THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE WAS CONCLUDED


 
Verse 51
Thus all the work that king Solomon wrought in the house of Jehovah was finished. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated, [even] the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, and put them in the treasuries of the house of Jehovah.

This whole chapter leaves out a great many things, especially the construction of the great altar that was supposed to stand in the outer court, but far more than enough is recorded to demonstrate the wholesale departures from the divine pattern of the Tabernacle that were featured in Solomon's Temple. When properly understood, this Temple must be evaluated as an unqualified tragedy. The marvel is that God's Spirit was actually associated with it until the times of Ezekiel, and that accommodation on the part of the Lord to the affectionate place in the hearts of Israel which that Temple occupied is, indeed, a measure of the Lord's infinite mercy and forgiveness. Even after God's Spirit forsook the apostate people and their pagan Temple (Ezek. 8), and after the return of a small and discouraged remnant from Babylon, God even ordered the reconstruction of their Temple, because, at that late hour, it had become necessary to the continued unity of God's people.


Footnotes for 1 Kings 7
1: F. W. Farrar in Expositor's Bible, p. 156.
2: Ibid., p. 158.
3: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 3a, p. 89.
4: Ibid., p. 102.
5: The Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 35.
6: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 318
7: International Critical Commentary, Kings, pp. 171, 172.
8: Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 36.
9: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 318.
10: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, p. 255.
11: Ibid., footnote by Whiston.
12: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 5a, p. 132.
13: Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, p. 178.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Kings 7". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=1ki&chapter=007>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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