This week’s lesson focuses on the construction of the first temple. Previously there had been many places for offering sacrifices and several buildings that we would call temples. But this is the first one built on the site traditionally associated with Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. As this temple came to prominence, it overshadowed the others and, by the time of the return from Babylon, it became the only one recognized. The first two chapters of 1 Kings are the background for that temple-building.
Chapters 1-2 deal with the final days of David, when his son, Adonijah, aided by the captain of the army, Joab, and one of the two chief priests, Abiathar, attempted a coup. Nathan and Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, entered into their own plot, telling David (who had previously promised that Solomon would be king) what Adonijah was doing. David’s solution is to have Zadok, the other chief priest, anoint Solomon co-regent.
Historical side note: The term “Sadducees” in the New Testament may be a transliteration of “Zadokite,” reflecting their desire for a legitimate priesthood holder, a descendant of Zadok, ultimately the first temple’s high priest, to occupy the office. After the exile in Babylon, Ezekiel declared that only descendants of Zadok could perform all of the priestly duties in the Temple, but the high priest of the temple in the 1st century was not a Zadokite, but a Hasmonean. (But the name “Sadducee” may, instead, mean “separatist.” We are not sure.)
More historical sidenote: As part of internal intrigue and treachery, the priest descended from the line of Zadok, Onias III was replaced with his brother, Jason (who bought the office), by Antiochus IV, king of the Seleucid empire, of which Israel was part at the time. (The Seleucid empire was one of four kingdoms into which Alexander’s empire had been divided at his death in 324 BC.) In turn, Jason was replaced with Menelaus (not a descendant of Zadok) in 171 BC. Menelaus also obtained the office by bribing Antiochus IV, offering more than Jason did.
In 164 BC, led by the Hasmonian family, Israel revolted against Antiochus IV. In response Antiochus IV allowed them to throw out the usurping high priest, Menelaus. But since the priests descended from Zadok had all fled to Elephantine, in Egypt, there was no one left in Jerusalem to serve as high priest. So the Hasmonean family took the office, with the understanding that they were doing so only temporarily, until a descendent of Zadok could be found to be made the high priest. By the time of Jesus no such descendant had been found, so the Hasmoneans continued to occupy the high priestly office, though many Israelites refused to recognize them as legitimate.
Zadok makes only a short appearance here, but he was very important to Israel’s later history.
By the beginning of chapter 3, Adonijah and Joab have been killed and Abiathar (from Eli’s posterity) has been banished from the court (and he is later executed). That means that Zadok is the sole priest over Israel, and it fulfills the prophecy pronounced on Eli (from whom Abiathar descends—1 Samuel 2:30-35).
In chapter 3, the Lord comes to Solomon in a dream and gives him the gift of wisdom, which he demonstrates by deciding between the two women and the baby. Chapters 5-7 tell of Solomon building the temple (chapter 4 is a list of the officers in Solomon’s court and the lands over which he ruled). Chapters 9-10 tell of Solomon’s power and reign, including the visit of the Queen of Sheba. Chapter 11 tells about the revolt led by Jeroboam and Solomon’s death. His son, Rehoboam reigns after him.
Verses 1-3: Why do you think that the writer refers to “Pharoah’s daughter,” never using her name? How would Israel have felt about the king marrying the daughter of their former masters? What would that marriage show about the present relation of Israel to Egypt? (Note: the phrase “city of David” reflects 2 Samuel 5:6-9, in which David’s men take Jerusalem as his possession. David creates the capital city of Jerusalem.) Leviticus 17:3-4 forbids Israel from offering sacrifice any place but at the tabernacle. How do you understand that, given the sacrifices we have seen offered, including by prophets, at other places before this? How does that prohibition help us understand what these verses tell us?
Note: The term translated “high places” doesn’t necessarily designate a high place, nor does it necessarily refer to places of idolatry. Its most obvious use is just as a reference to places in other cities where sacrifices had been offered. It is easy to see, in the end of verse 4, the editing of a later person. For the later editor, sacrifice at any spot other than the Jerusalem temple is unacceptable, but he has to deal with the fact that Solomon offered sacrifice at another place because that is the location of Solomon’s dream. Many scholars believe that the rule against sacrifice at any place but Jerusalem is a later revision of the text of Leviticus, reflecting the choice of Jerusalem as capital, rather than a Mosaic law. These verses are evidence for that suspicion.
Verse 7: How seriously should we take Solomon’s claim that he is only a little child? (Compare 1 Kings 11:42, 14:21.) What is the point of saying that he is young if he is old enough to have an adult son? What does this show us about Solomon?
Verses 8-9: Literally, Solomon asks for a “listening heart.” What does Solomon’s request show about his character? What does he value?
Verses 16-27: How does Solomon’s judgment show that he has the kind of wisdom needed to govern a kingdom?
Verses 3-5: Why did David’s involvement in war prevent him from building the Temple? What might this teach us about our own lives? What is required to build the kingdom of God? Why isn’t it David’s rape of Bathsheba and murder of Uriah what prevents him?
Verse 7: What is the significance of the claim that no iron tools were heard on the construction site of the Temple?
Verses 12-13: What does it mean to walk in the Lord’s statutes? To execute his judgments? What is the significance of the promise that the Lord makes here? What does it mean for Israel to be forsaken by God? What does it mean for an individual to be forsaken by him? What is the connection between the righteousness of the individual and that of the community? How are they related?
Verses 23-25: Except that they were winged creatures, we know little about the cherubim. Since each wing was 5 cubits wide, the four wings together would have been 20 cubits wide, assuming no space between them. Since the Holy of Holies was 20 cubits wide, we have to make that assumption, which means that the wings of the cherubim stretched entirely across the room. Why do you think the Lord had them place cherubim in the Holy of Holies? How does this commandment accord with the prohibition against graven images in the Ten Commandments?
Verse 7: This verse tells us that Solomon’s throne room was part of the temple. What does that say about the Israelite understanding of the relation of religion and the king?
Verse 44: Why do you think the “sea” had twelve oxen underneath it? Why oxen rather than another animal?
Verses 15-53: How does this dedicatory prayer compare to other temple dedicatory prayers, such as that of the Kirtland Temple or of the new Nauvoo Temple? Why is the king rather than the high priest or the prophet offering the dedicatory prayer for the Temple? The word “name” occurs in this prayer 14 times (verses 16-20, 29, 33, 35, 41-44, and 48). Why? Notice the things that Solomon prays for: that the Lord will keep the covenant he made with David (verses 25-26), that he will forgive trespasses between Israelites (31-32), forgive the sins that had caused Israel to lose battles (33-34), forgive the sins that had brought a drought (35-36), and forgive their sins that might cause other disasters (37-40), and he prayed on behalf of non-Israelites who come to Israel “for the name’s sake” (41-420, for victory in battle (44-45) and restoration after captivity (46-51), and that the Lord would hear the prayers of the Israelites (52-53). How are our concerns like theirs? How different? What can you see in this prayer that is emblematic of Israel’s relation to Christ? Do you think that Solomon’s prayer for restoration after captivity was prophetic? Did he have the captivity in mind that was to occur almost 500 years later, at the time of Zedekiah?
Verses 62-63: Why sacrifice so many animals? What would that show? Are these numbers literal or do they serve another purpose? If they serve another purpose, what is it?
Verse 1: Originally the word “Zion” referred only to the southern portion of the hill on the south side of Jerusalem. The name was extended to include the temple compound and, finally, to include all of Jerusalem. How is its historical meaning relevant to its contemporary meaning?
Verse 2: The Lord appeared to Solomon at Gibeon (1 Kings 3:5) and promised Solomon wisdom. Here we see the Lord giving him that wisdom. How is the Lord’s promise related to the completion of the Temple?
Verse 3: Why can only the Lord make something holy (“hallowed”)? Solomon’s Temple was destroyed when Israel was carried into captivity in Babylon. So, what does it mean for the Lord to say that he has put his name in that temple forever and his eyes and heart will be there perpetually?
Verses 4-5: Why does the Lord say that David walked before him “in integrity of heart, and in uprightness”? Isn’t that an odd way to describe David after he had Uriah killed trying to conceal his rape of Bathsheba? See 2 Samuel 7:16 and 1 Kings 22:4 for the promise that the Lord made to David.
Why are verses 1-11 included in the story? Why are verses 12-13 included? Verses 14-23? Verses 24-29?
Verses 1-4: In 1 Kings 9:6-9, the Lord warned what would happen if Israel departed from the Lord. In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, Israel was warned of what would happen if they married “strange,” in other words, foreign, non-Israelite, people. What do you think that warning meant, given the number of marriages we have seen between prominent Israelites (such as Moses) and non-Israelite women? How do you think it was possible for Solomon to become an idolater? Is there anything comparable that happens in our lives, something that probably seems natural to us and probably requires no conscious decision? In what sense was David’s heart whole but Solomon’s was not?
Verse 3: The numbers 700 and 300 are probably not meant literally. Nevertheless, it wasn’t unknown for kings to have huge harems as demonstrations of their wealth, power, and prestige. Is there a relation between Solomon’s desire to demonstrate his power (something a king needs to do) and his turn to idolatry? The writer of this story imputes merely base motives to Solomon, but we can imagine that Solomon saw matters differently: The marriages were politically strategic. The shrines he had built around the city had two purposes. First, they allowed those from other lands who had come to Jerusalem the possibility of worshiping their own gods—freedom of worship. Second, by locating them outside but near the city, and by making their presence a matter of privilege rather than right, they showed that those gods were subject to Yahweh. If those were Solomon’s motives, what was wrong with what he did?
Verse 9: How do you explain the fact that Solomon twice had a vision of the Lord and, nevertheless, turned from him?
Verse 12: What principle do we see at work here? Can you think of other instances of this principle, positive and negative?
Verses 15-17: This may be the same war described in 2 Samuel 8:13-14. In verse 17 notice that, as it does throughout ancient near eastern history, Egypt serves as a refuge for those who flee Israel and its neighbors. (See also verse 40.)
The Hebrew word translated “adversary” is satan, the word from which we get the name for Satan. To whom is Satan an adversary?
Verses 15 and 23-24: Is it significant that two of those who come against Solomon were made enemies by his father?
Verse 27: How is this a reason for Jeroboam’s revolt? What is missing?
Verses 30-31: How does this event compare to 1 Samuel 15:27-28?
Verses 31 and 37: In the first, Jeroboam is given 10 tribes to rule over. In the second, he is given rule over all that he desires. Are these the same?
Comments on this post can be made at Feast Upon the Word.