Containing The Interval Of One Hundred And Sixty-Three Years.
From The Death Of David To The Death Of Ahab.
How Solomon Removed The Ark Into The Temple, How He Made Supplication To God, And Offered Public Sacrifices To Him.
1. WHEN king Solomon had finished these works, these large and beautiful buildings, and had laid up his donations in the temple, and all this in the interval of seven years(14), and had given a demonstration of his riches and alacrity therein, insomuch that any one who saw it would have thought it must have been an immense time ere it could have been finished; and would be surprised that so much should be finished in so short a time; short, I mean, if compared with the greatness of the work: he also wrote to the rulers and elders of the Hebrews, and ordered all the people to gather themselves together to Jerusalem, both to see the temple which he had built, and to remove the ark of God into it; and when this invitation of the whole body of the people to come to Jerusalem was every where carried abroad, it was the seventh month before they came together; which month is by our countrymen called Thisri, but by the Macedonians Hyperberetoets.
The feast of tabernacles happened to fall at the same time, which was celebrated by the Hebrews as a most holy and most eminent feast. So they carried the ark and the tabernacle which Moses had pitched, and all the vessels that were for ministration, to the sacrifices of God, and removed them to the temple. (14b) The king himself, and all the people and the Levites, went before, rendering the ground moist with sacrifices, and drink-offerings, and the blood of a great number of oblations, and burning an immense quantity of incense, and this till the very air itself every where round about was so full of these odors, that it met, in a most agreeable manner, persons at a great distance, and was an indication of God's presence; and, as men's opinion was, of his habitation with them in this newly built and consecrated place, for they did not grow weary, either of singing hymns or of dancing, until they came to the temple; and in this manner did they carry the ark.
But when they should transfer it into the most secret place, the rest of the multitude went away, and only those priests that carried it set it between the two cherubims, which embracing it with their wings, (for so were they framed by the artificer,) they covered it, as under a tent, or a cupola. Now the ark contained nothing else but those two tables of stone that preserved the ten commandments, which God spake to Moses in Mount Sinai, and which were engraved upon them; but they set the candlestick, and the table, and the golden altar in the temple, before the most secret place, in the very same places wherein they stood till that time in the tabernacle. So they offered up the daily sacrifices; but for the brazen altar, Solomon set it before the temple, over against the door, that when the door was opened, it might be exposed to sight, and the sacred solemnities, and the richness of the sacrifices, might be thence seen; and all the rest of the vessels they gathered together, and put them within the temple.
2. Now as soon as the priests had put all things in order about the ark, and were gone out, there cane down a thick cloud, and stood there, and spread itself, after a gentle manner, into the temple; such a cloud it was as was diffused and temperate, not such a rough one as we see full of rain in the winter season. This cloud so darkened the place, that one priest could not discern another, but it afforded to the minds of all a visible image and glorious appearance of God's having descended into this temple, and of his having gladly pitched his tabernacle therein. So these men were intent upon this thought. But Solomon rose up, (for he was sitting before,) and used such words to God as he thought agreeable to the Divine nature to receive, and fit for him to give; for he said,
"Thou hast an eternal house, O Lord, and such a one as thou hast created for thyself out of thine own works; we know it to be the heaven, and the air, and the earth, and the sea, which thou pervadest, nor art thou contained within their limits. I have indeed built this temple to thee, and thy name, that from thence, when we sacrifice,and perform sacred operations, we may send our prayers up into the air, and may constantly believe that thou art present, and art not remote from what is thine own; for neither when thou seest all things, and hearest all things, nor now, when it pleases thee to dwell here, dost thou leave the care of all men, but rather thou art very near to them all, but especially thou art present to those that address themselves to thee, whether by night or by day."
When he had thus solemnly addressed himself to God, he converted his discourse to the multitude, and strongly represented the power and providence of God to them; - how he had shown all things that were come to pass to David his father, as many of those things had already come to pass, and the rest would certainly come to pass hereafter; and how he had given him his name, and told to David what he should be called before he was born; and foretold, that when he should be king after his father's death, he should build him a temple, which since they saw accomplished, according to his prediction, he required them to bless God, and by believing him, from the sight of what they had seen accomplished, never to despair of any thing that he had promised for the future, in order to their happiness, or suspect that it would not come to pass.
3. When the king had thus discoursed to the multitude, he looked again towards the temple, and lifting up his right hand to the multitude, he said,
4. When Solomon had said this, and had cast himself upon the ground, and worshipped a long time, he rose up, and brought sacrifices to the altar; and when he had filled it with unblemished victims, he most evidently discovered that God had with pleasure accepted of all that he had sacrificed to him, for there came a fire running out of the air, and rushed with violence upon the altar, in the sight of all, and caught hold of and consumed the sacrifices. Now when this Divine appearance was seen, the people supposed it to be a demonstration of God's abode in the temple, and were pleased with it, and fell down upon the ground and worshipped.
Upon which the king began to bless God, and exhorted the multitude to do the same, as now having sufficient indications of God's favorable disposition to them; and to pray that they might always have the like indications from him, and that he would preserve in them a mind pure from all wickedness, in righteousness and religious worship, and that they might continue in the observation of those precepts which God had given them by Moses, because by that means the Hebrew nation would be happy, and indeed the most blessed of all nations among all mankind. He exhorted them also to be mindful, that by what methods they had attained their present good things, by the same they must preserve them sure to themselves, and make them greater and more than they were at present; for that it was not sufficient for them to suppose they had received them on account of their piety and righteousness, but that they had no other way of preserving them for the time to come; for that it is not so great a thing for men to acquire somewhat which they want, as to preserve what they have acquired, and to be guilty of no sin whereby it may be hurt.
5. So when the king had spoken thus to the multitude, he dissolved the congregation, but not till he had completed his oblations, both for himself and for the Hebrews, insomuch that he sacrificed twenty and two thousand oxen, and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep; for then it was that the temple did first of all taste of the victims, and all the Hebrews, with their wives and children, feasted therein: nay, besides this, the king then observed splendidly and magnificently the feast which is called the Feast of Tabernacles, before the temple, for twice seven days; and he then feasted together with all the people.
6. When all these solemnities were abundantly satisfied, and nothing was omitted that concerned the Divine worship, the king dismissed them; and they every one went to their own homes, giving thanks to the king for the care he had taken of them, and the works he had done for them; and praying to God to preserve Solomon to be their king for a long time. They also took their journey home with rejoicing, and making merry, and singing hymns to God. And indeed the pleasure they enjoyed took away the sense of the pains they all underwent in their journey home. So when they had brought the ark into the temple, and had seen its greatness, and how fine it was, and had been partakers of the many sacrifices that had been offered, and of the festivals that had been solemnized, they every one returned to their own cities. But a dream that appeared to the king in his sleep informed him that God had heard his prayers; and that he would not only preserve the temple, but would always abide in it; that is, in case his posterity and the whole multitude would be righteous.
And for himself, it said, that if he continued according to the admonitions of his father, he would advance him to an immense degree of dignity and happiness, and that then his posterity should be kings of that country, of the tribe of Judah, for ever; but that still, if he should be found a betrayer of the ordinances of the law, and forget them, and turn away to the worship of strange gods, he would cut him off by the roots, and would neither suffer any remainder of his family to continue, nor would overlook the people of Israel, or preserve them any longer from afflictions, but would utterly destroy them with ten thousand wars and misfortunes; would cast them out of the land which he had given their fathers, and make them sojourners in strange lands; and deliver that temple which was now built to be burnt and spoiled by their enemies, and that city to be utterly overthrown by the hands of their enemies; and make their miseries deserve to be a proverb, and such as should very hardly be credited for their stupendous magnitude, till their neighbors, when they should hear of them, should wonder at their calamities, and very earnestly inquire for the occasion, why the Hebrews, who had been so far advanced by God to such glory and wealth, should be then so hated by him? and that the answer that should be made by the remainder of the people should be, by confessing their sins, and their transgression of the laws of their country. Accordingly we have it transmitted to us in writing, that thus did God speak to Solomon in his sleep.
(14) The Septuagint say that
"they prepared timber and stones to build the temple for three years," (1 Kings 5:18);
and although neither our present Hebrew copy, nor Josephus, directly name that number of years, yet do they both say the building itself did not begin till Solomon's fourth year; and both speak of the preparation of materials beforehand, 1 Kings v. 18; Antiq. B. VIII. Ch. 5. Sect. 1. There is no reason, therefore, to alter the Septuagint's number; but we are to suppose three years to have been the just time of the preparation, as I have done in my computation of the expense in building that temple.
(14b) This solemn removal of the ark from Mount Sion to Mount Moriah, at the distance of almost three quarters of a mile, confutes that notion of the modern Jews, and followed by many Christians also, as if those two were after a sort one and the same mountain, for which there is, I think, very little foundation.