Saul, the first leader of the united Kingdom of Israel, was a troubled man. He struggled with pride and jealousy. He spent much of his time and the nation’s resources pursuing a personal vendetta. David, the second and most beloved king of Israel, was a man after God’s own heart. That said, he still committed a terrible sin that brought about disastrous consequences in his life. During their respective reigns, both of these kings spent a significant amount of time at war with various enemies such as the Philistines, Amalekites, Ammonites, Moabites, and others.
Unlike his predecessors, King Solomon - the third and final ruler of the united kingdom - enjoyed a long and sustained period of peace. This allowed Solomon to focus upon developing Israel’s economy and improving its infrastructure. As a result, many building projects were completed during his reign. The most important of these, of course, was the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. The temple that Solomon built stood from approximately 960 BC until 587 BC, a period of about 373 years. It was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.
In today’s message, we are going to discuss the building of Solomon’s temple. We will also learn about many of the artifacts found inside and outside of the temple. In addition, we will briefly touch on another of Solomon's most notable building projects - his own palace.
I. THE TEMPLE’S DESIGN (1 Kings 6; 2 Chronicles 3)
During the fourth year of King Solomon’s reign, some 480 years after the exodus, work on the temple began. It took 7 years to complete. The temple was built following the same basic layout as the tabernacle and consisted of 2 main rooms. The outer room or “Holy Place” was about 60 feet long and 30 feet wide. The inner sanctuary or “Holy of Holies” was square - 30 feet long and 30 feet wide. There was also a porch at the entrance of the temple that measured 15 feet by 30 feet.
The temple’s walls had framed windows which provided for natural light inside. Along the outside of the temple and all around it were 3 stories of side chambers. These rooms were accessible through an outer door on the right side of the temple. Winding stairs allowed people to move up and down between the floors.
The walls and floor of the temple were made with cedar and cypress wood. Everything was overlaid with pure gold. Various designs were engraved into the golden walls such as cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers. Beautiful hinged doors separated the rooms. 2 large gold-plated cherubim sculptures were fashioned and placed in the inner sanctuary. The entire temple complex was a magnificent work-of-art.
II. THE TEMPLE’S FURNISHINGS (1 Kings 7:13-51; 2 Chronicles 4)
A skilled craftsman from Tyre came to assist Solomon with the temple’s furnishings. He designed and built many of the articles that were used outside of the temple. He erected 2 large bronze columns which stood on the temple’s porch on either side of the main entrance. These pillars were named Jachin and Boaz.
He built an altar that was 30 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 15 feet tall. He also made a large circular laver that measured 15 feet in diameter. It set upon the backs of 12 oxen, 3 facing each of the cardinal directions. He crafted 10 portable carts with basins on each, so that water could easily be transported in smaller quantities around the temple grounds. The altar was used to make sacrifices and the lavers for cleansing. All of these items were made of bronze and featured elaborate engravings. He also made numerous shovels, bowls, and other utensils.
Solomon built the furnishings that were located inside the temple. He crafted 10 golden lampstands and placed 5 on either side of the Holy Place. He made a golden table (possibly more than 1) upon which the showbread was placed. Solomon also built a golden altar which was used to burn incense. Finally he made numerous bowls, snuffers, and other golden items that were used by the priests. All of these items were similar to those that had been used in the tabernacle centuries earlier.
III. THE ROYAL PALACE (1 Kings 7:1-12)
Next to the temple, Solomon built a royal palace for himself. It took 13 years to complete and was made with many of the same types of materials as the temple had been. It included the house in which he lived, an attached house for his wife (the Pharaoh's daughter), a hall of pillars, a throne room, and an armoury which was called the house of the forest of Lebanon. There were courtyards around the different buildings within the palace and a walkway that led up to the temple.
Scripture indicates that Solomon built the LORD’s house before building his own. Certainly the king had an adequate place to live while the temple was being constructed, but he didn’t yet have an elaborate palace. Solomon made God’s temple the priority. Perhaps many of us would like to live in luxury someday, but let’s put the LORD first. If we will do that, an eternal mansion awaits us in glory...
The construction of Solomon’s temple took 7 years and the construction of his palace took another 13 years. Altogether these projects persisted for 20 years - half of Solomon’s reign! As you might suspect, the completion of these buildings was King Solomon’s most significant accomplishment - especially the temple. It formally replaced the tabernacle as Israel’s central place of worship and was the fulfillment of King David’s dream.
In his letters, the Apostle Paul compares the physical temple in Jerusalem with the temple of our bodies. Just as He was manifestly present in the temple and the tabernacle during the Old Testament period, since Pentecost God’s presence abides within Christians through the person of the Holy Spirit. In this way, the ancient Jewish temple foreshadows the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the life of a New Testament believer. Amazing!
Upon its completion, Solomon held a special ceremony to dedicate the temple. We will explore these festivities more deeply next week. Until then, remember that if you’re a born again Christian your body is the temple of God - so take care of it!
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