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The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

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Temple, A2Temple, Herod's



1. Second Version Not a Facsimile of First

2. The Two Versions Differ as to the Builder

3. The Earlier Version Silent about Things Recorded in Later Version


1. Reason for Interdicting David's Purpose to Build a Temple

2. Impossibility of David in His Old Age Collecting Materials Enumerated by the Chronicler

3. Supernaturally Received Pattern of the Temple Said to Have Been Given by David to Solomon

4. Alleged Organization of the Temple-Service by David

5. Assertion by Solomon That the Temple Would Be Used as a Central Sanctuary



Modern criticism does not challenge the existence of a Solomonic Temple on Mt. Moriah, as it does that of a Mosaic tabernacle in the wilderness. Only it maintains that historic value belongs exclusively to the narrative in Kings, while the statements in Chronicles are pure ornamentation or ecclesiastical trimming dating from post-exilic times. All that is true about the Temple, says criticism, is

(1) that David originally, i.e. on coming to the throne of all Israel, contemplated erecting such a structure upon Araunah's threshing-floor, but was prohibited from doing so by Nathan, who at first approved of his design but was afterward directed by Yahweh to stay the king's hand, and to inform the king that the work of building a house for Yahweh to dwell in was not to be his (the king's) task and privilege but his son's, and that as a solatium for his disappointment Yahweh would build him a house, by establishing the throne of his kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:4-17);

(2) that after David's death Solomon called to mind the pious purpose of his father of which he had been informed and the express promise of Yahweh that David's successor on the throne should execute that purpose, and accordingly resolved to "build a house for the name of Yahweh his God" (1 Kings 5:3-5); and

(3) that 7 1/2 years were employed in the work of construction, after which the finished Temple was dedicated in the presence of the congregation of Israel, with their princes, priests and Levites, in a speech which rehearsed the fact that David had intended to build the house but was prevented, and with a prayer which once more connected the Temple with the pious intention of David (1 Kings 8:18-20).

All the rest is simply embellishment (Wellhausen, GI, 181-92; article "Temple" in EB):

(1) that David's purpose to build the Temple was interdicted because he had been a man of war and had shed blood (1 Chronicles 28:3), which in Wellhausen's judgment should rather have been a qualification for the business;

(2) that David in his old and feeble age made elaborate preparations for the construction of the house he was not to see--which, again writes Wellhausen, was like "making the bread so far ready that his son only required to shove it into the oven";

(3) that David gave to his son Solomon the pattern of the house in all its details as the Lord had caused him to understand in writing ("black upon white," as Wellhansen expresses it) by His (the Lord's) hand upon him--which was different from the way in which Moses received instruction about the tabernacle, namely, by a pattern shown to him in the Mount, and carried in his recollection;

(4) that David before his death arranged all the musical service for the Temple, invented musical instruments, appointed all the officers to be associated with the Temple priests, Levites, porters and singers, distributing them in classes and assigning them their duties by lot (1 Chronicles 23:2-26; 2 Chronicles 8:12-16)--exactly as these things were afterward arranged in the second or post-exilic temple and were now carried back to David as the legislation of the Priestly Code was assigned to Moses; and

(5) that David's son Solomon assures Hiram (the Revised Version (British and American) "Huram") that the Temple will be used as a central sanctuary "to burn before him (Yahweh) incense of sweet spices, and for the continual showbread, and for the burnt-offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the set feasts of Yahweh our God" (2 Chronicles 2:3), i.e. for divine service, which, according to criticism, was of post-exilic origin.

The questions that now fall to be considered are:

(1) whether the statements of the Chronicler are inconsistent with those in the Books of Samuel and Kings; and (2) if not, whether they are in themselves such as to be incredible.

I. Alleged Want of Harmony between Earlier (K) and Later (Ch) Versions of Temple Building.

1. Second Version Not a Facsimile of First

It does not seem reasonable to hold that this has been established. The circumstance that the second account is not a facsimile of the first does not warrant the conclusion that the first alone is fact and the second fiction. It is quite conceivable that both might be true. David might have had it in his mind, as the first account states and the second acknowledges, to build a house for Yahweh, and yet not have been able to carry his purpose into effect, and have been obliged to hand over its execution to his son. David, moreover, might have been hindered by Yahweh (through His prophet Nathan) from building the Temple for more reasons than one--because the proposal was premature, God having it in His mind to build a house for David, i.e. to establish his dynasty, before requiring a permanent habitation for Himself; and also because the time was unpropitious, David having still much to do in the subjugation of his country's enemies; and because it was more fitting that a temple for the God of Peace should not be erected by one who had been a man of war from his youth. The first of these reasons is stated in Samuel, the second and third are recorded in Chronicles.

2. The Two Versions Differ as to the Builder

The earlier version does not say that David built the house; but that his son was to do it, and this the later version does not contradict; the later version does not claim that the idea originated with Solomon, but ascribes it to David, precisely as the earlier version does. In this there is no disharmony, but rather underlying harmony. Both versions assert that David purposed and that Solomon performed, in which surely there is perfect agreement.

3. The Earlier Version Silent about Things Recorded in Later Version

The silence of the earlier version about the things recorded in the later version, such as the preparation of material and the organization of the Temple-service, does not prove that these things were not known to the author of the earlier version, or had not taken place when he wrote. No writer is obliged to cram into his pages all he knows, but only to insert as much of his information as will subserve his aim in writing. Nor does his omission to set down in his narrative this or that particular fact or incident amount to a demonstration that the unrecorded fact or incident had not then occurred or was not within his cognizance. Least of all is it expected that a writer of civil history shall fill his pages with details that are purely or chiefly ecclesiastical. In short, if the omission from Kings of David's preparations and arrangement for the Temple testifies that no such preparations or arrangements were made, the omission from Chronicles of David's sin with Bath-sheba and of Nathan's parable of the Ewe Lamb should certify that either these things never happened or they were not known after the exile. It is usual to say they were purposely left out because it was the Chronicler's intention to encircle David with a nimbus of glory (Wellhausen), but this is simply critical hypothesis, the truth of which is disputed. On critical principles either these incidents in David's life were not true or the Chronicler was not aware of them. But the Chronicler had as one main source for his composition "the earlier historical books from Genesis to Kings" (Driver), and "the tradition of the older source only has historical value" (Wellhausen).

II. Detailed Objections against Chronicler's Account.

1. Reason for Interdicting David's Purpose to Build a Temple

Examining now in detail the abovestated objections, we readily see that they are by no means so formidable as at first sight they look, and certainly do not prove the Chronicler's account to be incredible. That David's purpose to build a temple should have been interdicted because he had been a man of war and had shed blood appears to Wellhausen to be a watermark of non-historicity. Benzinger in Encyclopedia Biblica (art. "Temple") goes beyond this and says "There is no historical probablity David had thoughts of building a temple." But if David never thought of building a temple, then not only was the Chronicler mistaken in making Solomon say (2 Chronicles 6:7) that it was in the heart of his father so to do, but he was chargeable with something worse in making the Lord say to David, "Whereas it was in thy heart to build a house for my name, thou didst well in that it was in thy heart" (2 Chronicles 6:8), unless he was absolutely certain that the statement was true--which it was not if Benzinger may be relied on.

Nor is it merely the Chronicler whose character for intelligence and piety suffers, if David never thought of building a temple; the reputation of the author or authors of Samuel and Kings must also go, since they both declare that David did entertain the purpose which Benzinger denies (2 Samuel 7:2; 1 Kings 5:3); and an impartial reasoner will hesitate before he sacrifices the good name even of two unknown ancient writers at the ipse dixit of any modern scholar.

We may therefore limit our remarks to Wellhausen's objection and reply that the reason assigned by Chronicles for prohibiting David from carrying out his purpose, namely, that he had been a man of war, might have been an argument for permitting him to do so, or at least for his seeking to do so, had his object been to erect a monument to his own glory or a thank offering to God for the victories he had won; but not if the Temple was designed to be a habitation wherein God might dwell among His people to receive their worship and bless them with His grace. Strange as it may seem (Winer) that David should have been debarred from carrying out his purpose for the reason assigned, yet there was reason in the interdict, for not only was it fitting that peaceful works should be carried out by peaceful hands (Merz in PRE2), but David's vocation was not temple-building but empire-building (to use a modern phrase); and many campaigns lay before him ere the leisure could be found or the land could be ready for the execution of his sacred design.

2. Impossibility of David in His Old Age Collecting Materials Enumerated by the Chronicler

That David in his old and feeble age could not possibly have collected all the materials enumerated by 1 Chronicles 29 might possibly have been true, had David been an impecunious chieftain and had he only in the last years of his life commenced to amass treasure. But David was a powerful and wealthy eastern potentate and a valiant warrior besides, who had conquered numerous tribes, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Edomites and Ammonites, and had acquired from his victories large spoil, which from an early stage in his career he had been accustomed to dedicate to the Lord (2 Samuel 8:11). Hence, it is little better than trifling to put forward as an inherent mark of incredibility the statement that David in his old age could not have made extensive and costly preparations for the building of the Temple--all the more that according to the narrative he was assisted by "the princes of the fathers' houses, and the princes of the tribes of Israel, and the captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers over the king's work," and "the people" generally, who all "offered willingly for the service of the house of God."

No doubt the value in sterling money of these preparations is enormous--the gold and silver alone being variously reckoned at 8 (Keil), 16 (Bertheau), 81 (Michaelis), 450 (Kautzsch), 1,400 (Rawlinson) millions of pounds--and might reasonably suggest either that the text has become corrupt, or the numbers were originally used loosely to express the idea of an extraordinary amount, or were of set purpose exaggerated. The first of these explanations is adopted by Rawlinson; the second by Berthcan; the third by Wellhausen, who sees in the whole section (1 Chronicles 22-29) "'a frightful example of the statistical fantasy of the Jews, which delights itself in immense sums of gold upon paper." But even conceding that in each of these explanations a measure of truth may lie, it does not seem justifiable to wipe out as unhistorical and imaginary the main statement of the Chronicler, that David's preparations were both extensive and costly, all the less that 1 Kings 10:14,15 bears witness to the extraordinary wealth of Solomon. whose income is stated to have been 666 talents of gold, or about 3 millions sterling, a year, besides that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffic of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia and of the governors of the country. If David's annual income was anything like this, and if he had command of all the treasures accumulated in previous years, it does not look so impossible as criticism would make out that David could have prepared for the future Temple as the Chronicler reports.

3. Supernaturally Received Pattern of the Temple Said to Have Been Given by David to Solomon

That David gave to Solomon the pattern of the Temple in a writing which had been prepared by him under direct supernatural guidance can be objected to only by those who deny the possibility of such divine communications being made by God to man. If criticism admits, as it sometimes does, the possibility of both revelation and inspiration, the objection under consideration must fall to the ground. That the method of making David acquainted with the pattern of the Temple was not in all respects the same as that adopted for showing Moses the model of the tabernacle, only proves that the resources of infinite wisdom are not usually exhausted by one effort, and that God is not necessarily tied down to one particular way of uttering His thoughts.

But criticism mostly rejects the idea of the supernatural and accordingly dismisses this statement about the God-given pattern as altogether fanciful--pointing (1) to the fact that similar temples already existed among the Canaanites, as e.g. at Shechem (Judges 9:46) and at Gaza (Judges 16:29), which showed there was no special need for a divinely-prepared plan; and (2) to the circumstance that Solomon fetched Hiram, a Tyrian worker in brass, to assist in the erection of the Temple, which again, it is urged, renders probable the conclusion that at least Phoenician ideas entered into its structure (Duncker, Benzinger). Suppose, however, it were true that the Temple was fashioned on a Phoenician, Canaanite or Egyptian model, that would not disprove the statement that David was guided by divine inspiration in drawing up the outline of the building.

4. Alleged Organization of the Temple-Service by David

That David's organization of the Temple-service, both as to officers and instruments as to ritual and music, corresponded exactly (or nearly so) with what afterward existed in the second temple can hardly be adduced as a proof of non-historicity, except on the supposition that Chronicles deliberately "transformed the old history into church history" by ascribing to David the holy music and the arrangement of the Temple personals" which belonged to the post-exilic age, precisely as the author or authors of the Priestly Code, which dated from the same age (according to criticism), attributed this to Moses (Wellhausen, GI, 187)--in other words, by stating what was not true in either case, by representing that as having happened which had not happened. Whether this was originally intended to deceive and was a willful fraud, as some hold, and whether it was legitimate then "to do evil that good might come," to persuade men that David organized the musical service which was performed in the second temple in order to secure for it popular acceptance, it may be left to each reader to determine; it must always be wrong to ascribe doubtful practices to good men like the authors of the Priestly Code (P) and of Chronicles unless one is absolutely sure that they were guilty of such practices. Undoubtedly the fair and reasonable thing is to hold that the Chronicler wrote the truth until it is proved that he did not; and for his statement it may be claimed that at least it has this in its favor, that in the earlier sources David is distinctly stated to have been a musician (1 Samuel 16:23), to have composed a song, Psalms 18 (2 Samuel 22:1), and to have been designated "the sweet psalmist of Israel." No doubt on the critical hypothesis this might explain why the thought occurred to the Chronicler to credit David with the organization of the Temple-service; but without the critical hypothesis it equally accounts for the interest David took in preparing "the music and the personals" for the Temple which his son was to, build. "The tradition that David intended to build a temple and that he reorganized public worship, not forgetting the musical side thereof (compare 2 Samuel 6:5 with Amos 6:5)," says Kittel (The Scientific Study of the Old Testament, 136, English translation), "is not altogether without foundation."

5. Assertion by Solomon That the Temple Would Be Used as a Central Sanctuary

That the Temple-service was carried out in accordance with the regulations of the Priestly Code does not prove that the Chronicles account is unreliable, unless it is certain that the postexilic Priestly Code was an entirely new ritual which had never existed before, which some modern critics do not admit. But, if it was merely, as some maintain, a codification of a cult that existed before, then no sufficient reason exists for holding that Solomon's Temple was designed to be a private chapel for the king (Benzinger), erected partly out of piety but partly also out of love of splendor and statecraft (Reuss), rather than a central sanctuary for the people. A study of Solomon's letter to Hiram (2 Chronicles 2:4) shows that the Temple was intended for the concentration of the nation's sacrificial worship which had up till then been frequently offered at local shrines, though originally meant for celebration at the Mosaic tabernacle--for the burning of sweet incense (Exodus 30:1), the offering day by day continually of the burnt offering (Exodus 29:39). And though, it is admitted, the letter to Hiram as reported in 1 Kings makes no mention of this intention, yet it is clear from 1 Kings 8:62-65, that Solomon, after dedicating the Temple by prayer, used it for this purpose. Wherefore, if Chronicles simply transferred to the consecration of the Temple a ritual that had no existence until after the exile, the author of Kings did the same, which again would destroy Wellhausen's admission that historical validity attaches to the earlier source. A much more likely supposition is that the ritual reported by both historians was not that of a Priestly Code manufactured for the second temple, but that which had been published by Moses for the tabernacle, in place of which it had come. That local shrines for many years existed alongside of the Temple only proves that Solomon's original idea was not perfectly carried out either by himself or his people.


The Commentaries of Bertheau and Keil on Chronicles; Reuss. Geschichte der heiligen Schriften des Alten Testaments; articles on "Temple" in Sch-Herz; Riehm. Handworterbuch; HDB; EB; Wellhausen. Prolegomena schichte Israels.

T. Whitelaw

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'TEMPLE, B'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". <>. 1915.


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