Like 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles records the history of David’s royal line. The first nine chapters describe the building of the temple. After this the chronicler traced the history of Judah, the southern kingdom, until Jerusalem’s final destruction and the exile to Babylon of many of her people. When 2 Chronicles was written it brought a ray of hope to God’s people who desperately needed encouragement. The Israelite community which was reduced to a minority in exile among the Babylonians, was struggling to understand its place. Had God’s promises to Abraham and David been revoked because of the nations sins? Was there any hope of reviving David’s dynasty? Could Jerusalem survive without the temple? 2 Chronicles addresses these questions. The answers came in a historical review of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites. Although the nation had been in a steady decline over the centuries, God had always been faithful to those who remained true to Him. The good that God had done in the past would be the pattern for His future acts. God would keep His promises to the Israelites.
The details of the history of Israel and Judah in 2 Chronicles communicates the great message of redemption, especially God’s blessing on David and his successors. 1 Chronicles focuses on the Davidic covenant during David’s time and 2 Chronicles continues the theme in the period after David’s death. Even as we read the account of Solomon, we still see a focus on the Davidic covenant. And because of this there will be a much greater focus on Judah than the northern kingdom of Israel. Some of the themes to look for include the United monarchy under both David and Solomon. We see that the chronicler measures every king in the history of David’s royal line by whether or not that king remained faithful to the Lord. God’s people are warned repeatedly about being faithful. And if the people turned from the Lord, judgement would inevitably result. On the other hand, if they would repent, obey God’s law and trust in him, they would be blessed with victory, peace, and prosperity. Finally, there is a theme of worship throughout. The building and the dedication of the temple was the greatest achievement in Solomon’s 40 year reign. It took 20 years to complete. The temple was the central place of worship, symbolizing God’s presence among His people.
Solomon called an assembly of all the leaders in the country and they met at the high place at Gibeon. The tabernacle of meeting with God was there, the one Moses had made when the Israelites were in the wilderness. The term high places comes from the fact that many ancient worshipers used hills for their sacred rites, thinking that such places were good meeting points between heaven and earth. Over time high place came to mean any worship center, whether it was on a hill or not. In the Old Testament, the high places were usually associated with pagan worship, particularly in the Canaanite religion but, there was nothing inherently evil about using a hilltop as a place of worship. The evil was not in the place but in the pagan rituals that were practiced there. The tabernacle remained in Gibeon together with the great bronze altar all throughout David’s reign.
We read that Solomon accumulated chariots and horses…lots of chariots and horses and he even bought and sold horses to other nations. But Solomon was not an experienced military leader and this collection of horses and chariots may have been more of a reflection of a love of extravagance than military experience. By this time the use of chariots was largely obsolete and they were more a matter of prestige than of tactical value. Chariots were good on flat ground but there was precious little smooth, flat ground in Judah or Israel. Solomon’s influence in economic and political affairs was enhanced by the transportation and trade routes that intersected his kingdom. Solomon acquired much through trade and we saw that when the Queen of Sheba visited. There are also many traders and merchants mentioned in the accounts of his wealth.
Solomon begins his reign and rule in a good place. Not only did his father David provide the materials for building the temple but Solomon was faithful to the Lord. There was peace in the nation and all was well. At this point Solomon didn’t have many foreign wives and he was not distracted away from worshiping the Lord. Sadly that would change but right now we see the glory days of Solomon. We see too the same sense of awe and questioning in Solomon that we saw in David. In 2:5 Solomon spoke of the temple to be built, saying it will be great because the Lord is greater than all gods. But who can really build Him a temple because heaven can’t even contain Him. And the question…who am I? The temple is simply a place for God’s people to have a place to gather to worship Him.
Solomon already had skilled men to work on the temple. David had selected and organized these men for the purpose of building the temple but there needed to be one or two people who had specific skills. Solomon asked his friend Hiram of Tyre to send someone and Hiram sent Huram. It is interesting that Hiram, the king of Tyre had an Israelite mother and a Phoenician father. Depending on what he learned at home growing up, it is possible Hiram had some knowledge of the Lord. The blessing we read is most likely a polite salutation rather than a confession of faith and a recognition of Yahweh as the one true God. It is also clear from his letter that Hiram, David, and Solomon maintained close contact.
Today’s reading brought great detail about the construction of the temple. Here are some thoughts about this magnificent house of the Lord. Solomon’s temple was the first of three temples Israel built in its long history. The other two are the one constructed after the Israelites returned from exile and the one Herod rebuilt. David had wanted to build the temple but as a man of war he was unqualified to build such a holy place because of all the bloodshed he had been part of. So, God gave the plans to David and David passed them on to his son Solomon. And as God instructed,Solomon built the temple of the Lord on Mount Moriah just north of the ancient city of David. Solomon wanted to build a temple worthy of being the center of worship for the entire nation, so he used only the best craftsmen and materials. The materials included cedar and algum logs. Some believe algum was a part of the juniper family and others believe it is a rare wood from Ophir in the south of Arabia, perhaps Yemen. Solomon used gold, silver, cut stones and fine linen. Most of the temple’s beams, walls, posts and doors were overlaid with pure gold that was decorated with carvings of palm trees, garlands, and cherubim. The most holy place, the Holy of Holies, was overlaid with 23 tons of fine gold. Yes you read that right, 23 tons of gold. In this room two giant gold cherubim stood watch over the ark of the covenant. Just like the cherubim stood guard at the entrance to the garden of Eden these cherubim stood guard over the ark of the Lord. The curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from everything else was made of blue, purple, and crimson yarn, and fine linen with cherubim worked into the pattern. Only the most skilled craftsmen worked on the temple furnishings that were made of gold…lamp stands, tables, and 100 bowels. When everything was completed the temple dazzled everyone who saw it. Between the scent of the cedar logs and the splendor of all the gold walls it must have been sensory overload.
But for all of its beauty Solomon knew that no man made structure could contain the Lord. The temple served as a reminder of God’s presence among His people and the promise of the covenant. To all who came to the temple for worship, God held out his promised presence. But just because the temple was there it was no guarantee that the presence of the Lord would always be there. God promised to live among His people forever, and the temple was His dwelling place , but for the Holy God to live among the Israelites they had to remain faithful to Him. As we know, that did not happen. Consequently the temple was looted and destroyed, as were the second and third temples after this one.
A couple other obersvations about the building of the temple. The site was prepared but the work of preparing the stones, wood, and all the bronze articles happened someplace else. The wood was dressed before it was sent from Tyre. It came down the coast from Tyre but the journey from Joppa to Jerusalem was arduous. It was nearly 40 miles and the road was a winding and steep ascent. The stone was quarried and dressed in the hillsides and brought to Jerusalem. These were not small bricks. They were huge foundation stones. And many of the bronze items were made at a place on the Jordan River valley about 35 miles north of the Dead Sea. This was an area that had clay suitable for bronze casting. But not only did these HEAVY bronze items have to be moved close to 40 miles, they had to be moved across the Jordan River. Building this temple was an enormous undertaking.
When the temple was finally completed the ark of the covenant was brought to the temple with great joy and celebration. This was a time to offer praise and thanks to the Lord who made the skills of the craftsmen, the materials, and giving hearts possible. And like David before him, Solomon took on a priestly role at this auspicious occasion. On this day of celebration all the priests and Levites were serving in some capacity. From then on, they would serve in rotation according to their divisions that David had organized. All of this celebrating was amazing and wonderful but the best part of the celebration happened when the cloud settled over the house of the Lord and the presence of the Lord moved into the temple. The priests could no longer minister in the temple because the glory of the Lord filled the house. It was meant to be a spectacle so that all the people would see the presence of the Lord was in the midst of His people. It was a sign of hope and a warning that the people were to live holy lives to honor Him.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W