Ancient kings gained fame and status either through their military victories or construction projects. Israel’s most famous kings were David, the warrior, and his son Solomon, the builder.
Solomon’s reign is given considerable space in both 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. In 1 Kings nearly half of that space is given to the construction and dedication of the temple. And in 2 Chronicles, well over half of the Solomon account is related to the temple. Solomon’s magnificent temple for the Lord will stand for nearly four hundred years.
Solomon has made preparations for this massive building project, and the details are given to us in 1 Kings chapter 5 and 2 Chronicles chapter 2. Now we come to the actual building of the temple in 1 Kings 6. Verse 1 tells us that the building project began “in the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt.” This is the year 966 BC.
Now over in 2 Chronicles 3:1 we are informed that the temple is built on Mount Moriah. This is where the Lord had appeared to David at the threshing floor (1 Chronicles 21). This is also where Abraham had offered up his son Isaac in Genesis 22.
Now back in 1 Kings 6, we are given a number of details that I want to highlight so that we can picture this stunningly beautiful temple. Verse 2 tells us the temple was “sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high.” This would be ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high. The building is divided into two sections—the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies). Inside the Holy of Holies, is the ark of the covenant, representing God’s presence.
Over in the parallel account of 2 Chronicles 3, verses 10-12 tell us that two massive angels—cherubim—were crafted from wood and covered in gold. Their outstretched wings together spanned thirty feet; and they sort of stood guard, in a sense, inside the Holy of Holies over the majesty of God’s presence.
Back in 1 Kings 6:7, the skill and precision of this building project is described. Notice this: “When the house was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built.” In other words, the stones and timber were cut away from the site, and when they arrived at the site, they fit together perfectly like pieces of a puzzle. This is no small accomplishment when you consider the foundation stones were the size of train cars.
Now in the midst of this description, we read a challenging and encouraging word the Lord gives King Solomon here in verses 12-13:
“Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you . . . and I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.”
In other words, no matter how beautiful and magnificent this temple turned out, it could not take the place of personal and national obedience to the Lord. This temple is not a good luck charm; it is not going to protect the people of Israel if they abandon God.
Now back to the construction project here in verse 22, we are told that “[Solomon] overlaid the whole house with gold.” Verse 29 adds, “Around all the walls of the house he carved engraved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers.”
Built by the finest craftsmen and artists, using the best materials, exhibiting the rarest beauty, and sparing no expense, this temple was intended to reflect the beauty and holiness of the true and living God who would dwell there in a special sense. This was His house, and it was a wonder to behold.
Just think about the fact that the New Testament describes the Christian today as “the temple of the Holy Spirit” and then says, “Glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). So, do our lives reflect the beauty and holiness of God, who has effectively made us His dwelling place today?
Well, the last verse of 1 Kings 6 says it took seven years to complete this project. Chapter 7 briefly interrupts the account to describe the building of Solomon’s house, which took thirteen years to complete. This is actually an entire campus that included the king’s palace and court and his personal residence, along with some other buildings. This seems to indicate that Solomon’s house was built near the temple, and that would serve as a reminder that he was accountable to God.
In 1 Kings 7:13, we return to the temple and all its furnishings. We’re introduced to another man named Hiram, and he’s described in verse 14 as “full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze.” His expertise is utilized in making two bronze pillars twenty-seven feet high and eighteen feet around. Imagine these massive pillars, which will stand on either side of the entrance to the temple. The large bronze altar of sacrifice that stood in the temple courtyard and is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 4:1 probably was Hiram’s work as well.
Hiram was a very busy man. We are told that he built most of the items mentioned here in 1 Kings chapter 7. They include the “sea,” which was a large basin, fifteen feet across, that rested on the backs of twelve bronze oxen (verses 23-26); and the “ten stands of bronze” with wheels attached to them, each designed to hold a smaller bronze basin and decorated with carvings of lions and palm trees (verses 27-39). These items are out in the courtyard.
Inside the temple, everything is covered in gold. The items listed in verse 48 and following include “the golden altar, the golden table for the bread of the Presence” and “the lampstands of pure gold.”
Finally, at the end of chapter 7, verse 51 tells us:
Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated, the silver, the gold, and the vessels, and stored them in the treasuries of the house of the Lord.
It is hard to imagine the wisdom and effort and skill needed to plan, organize, fund, and carry out this seven-year project, but the result was one of the wonders of the world—a magnificent temple for the worship of the true and living God.
And we must not miss the truth that everything about the temple pointed, not to Solomon or Hiram or the stonecutters and gold workers, but to the glory and grace and power of the sovereign Creator of the universe. It was breathtaking, and it magnified God.
Now we must remember that nothing today remains of this magnificent temple. But again, as believers, we are each the temple of God’s Spirit. Let’s make it our priority today through our lives, our lifestyles, our convictions, our disposition, and our work ethic and attitude to enhance the fame and reputation, not of us, but of the God we love and serve.