2 Chronicles 5:2-7:22 – Temple Dedication
SummarySharing a central position with the construction of the temple is the worship service in which the ark is finally placed in the temple and the temple itself is dedicated.
AnalysisIn contrast to the Chronicler's drastic abridgment of the temple construction in 1 Kings 6-7, the account of its dedication is over twice as long as the account in 1 Kings 8-9.
The transfer of the ark to its final resting place (5:2-6:2) strongly echoes David's transfer of the ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13-16). After the deadly lesson of David's failed first attempt to transfer the ark (1 Chronicles 13:9-11), the ark is carried by Levites (5:4; 1 Chronicles 15:2), who sing, "For he is good, for his steadfast loves endures for ever" (5:13; 1 Chronicles 16:34). This becomes the focal point of a national assembly (5:2-3; 1 Chronicles 13:1-5), replete with sacrifice (5:6; 1 Chronicles 15:26), music (5:12-13; 1 Chronicles 13:8), and the blessing of the king (6:3; 1 Chronicles 16:1-3). As at the dedication of the tabernacle by Moses, the temple is filled with a cloud marking the divine presence (5:13-14; Exodus 40:34-38).
Solomon's dedicatory prayer (2 Chronicles 6:12-42) closely follows 1 Kings 8:22-53. It is framed by a brief address (2 Chronicles 6:2-11)--in which Solomon claims that, in his accession to the throne and the construction of the temple, God has fulfilled his promise to David (vv. 4, 10)--and a description of God's response and the festival itself (7:1-11). In the depiction of God's response as fire falling from heaven, the Chronicler recalls several cultic events, including the inauguration of Aaron's priesthood (Leviticus 9:22-24) and Elijah's triumph over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:38). These pale to insignificance, however, when compared to the Chronicler's own narrative of heavenly fire falling upon David's altar at the threshing floor of Ornan when God designated it as the site of the very temple now being dedicated (1 Chronicles 21:26). Thus, the framework presents the Chronicler's twin tenets of king and temple.
The prayer itself falls into two segments. The first (vv. 14-17) continues the theme of God's dynastic promise to David. Unlike previous appearances of this important theme in Chronicles, Solomon here prays for those who will follow him, claiming God's promise that "there shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel" (v. 16, see also 1 Chronicles 17:14, "his throne shall be established forever"). Significantly, the Chronicler concludes the verse with the condition of obedience to God's law, a condition that will loom large in the following royal accounts and, ultimately, in the Chronicler's explanation of the exile (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).
The second segment (6:18-42) deals with the purpose of the temple. Since the temple is not a "house" for God (v. 18), Solomon realizes that it is a house of prayer (compare to Isaiah 56:7). The rest of the prayer sets forth a series of situations that might occasion prayer, complete with appeals that God would hear from heaven and forgive.
Of greatest significance, however, is the expression of the Chronicler's central theological conviction that appears in chapter 7:12-22 and especially in the crux of that text (v. 14): God will forgive and restore those under judgment when they humble themselves, pray, seek God's face, and turn from their wicked ways. Each of these four verbs will figure prominently in the Chronicler's evaluations of the kings of Judah. Together with God's promise of a dynasty to David (1 Chronicles 17), this verse forms the theological heart of the Chronicler's work.