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Passage: 1 Kings 6:1-7:51

1 Kings 6:1-7:51 – Solomon Builds the Temple

Summary

Solomon continues to demonstrate his divinely given wisdom by constructing the Jerusalem temple.

Analysis

First, a note on the chronology of 1 Kings 6:1, an important reference point in biblical chronology. The fourth year of Solomon's reign would most likely fall between 965 and 958 B.C.E.; 480 years after the exodus would place that event in the mid-fifteenth century; but this is at odds with Exodus 1:11 and archaeological evidence indicating a thirteenth-century exodus during the reign of Rameses II of Egypt. No satisfactory explanation has been offered. Perhaps we should see the 480 years as a round number symbolizing the twelve tribes multiplied by the typical length of a biblical generation, twelve years. The seven years of construction may also be symbolic of perfection or completeness.

Most of the chapter offers details about the temple that link it to typical sanctuaries of Syria-Palestine, not surprising as Solomon employed Hiram of Tyre (not the supplier of timber and David's treaty partner) for the specialized tasks of casting bronze elements such as the pillars in front of the temple and the bronze sea within it. Details of the temple are specific: length, 90 feet; width, 30 feet; height, 45 feet. There are three main rooms: the entrance, holy place, and holy of holies, where the ark of the covenant was housed. The holy of holies was a perfect cube, the holy place was twice as long, and the entrance was half as long as the holy of holies.

The intrusive speech at 1 Kings 6:11-13 is missing in the Septuagint and is probably a later addition. It puts three conditions on Solomon and is thoroughly Deuteronomistic. The issue is one of faithfulness; faithful obedience, not the building of the temple, will guarantee God's presence among the people.

Solomon's own residence is much larger than the temple and took nearly twice as long to build (7:1-12), though we probably should not make too much of this discrepancy. Access to the temple was much more restricted, being limited to clergy. The residence, however, also housed a number of government buildings.