The books of Chronicles have been building to this point. Now the central activity of Solomon’s reign is related in a report of the temple’s construction that emphasizes its splendor.
The Chronicler has once again abridged his source (1 Kings 6-7). This shortening is curious, given the Chronicler’s consuming interest in the templeThe Jerusalem temple, unlike the tabernacle, was a permanent structure, although (like the tabernacle) it was a place of worship and religious activity. On one occasion Jesus felt such activity was unacceptable and, as reported in all four Gospels, drove from the temple those engaged... More. A close reading of the text, however, reveals that most of the omissions have to do with matters of architecture and furniture, obviously not of central concern to his purpose. Instead, he has drawn upon the descriptions of the tabernacleThe tabernacle, a word meaning "tent," was a portable worship place for the Hebrew people after they left Egypt. It was said to contain the ark of the covenant. The plans for the tabernacle are dictated by God in Exodus 26. More in Exodus to present the liturgical glories of the edifice:
- cherubimThe cherubim are winged creatures who support the throne of God. These creatures were reputed to be a part of the ark of the covenant. In the book of Isaiah God is said to be enthroned above the cherubim. More (3:10-13; Exodus 25:18-20)
- curtain (3:14; Exodus 26:31)
- altar (4:1; Exodus 30:1-10)
- basins (4:6; Exodus 30:18-21)
- lampstands (4:7; Exodus 25:31-37)
- tables (4:8; Exodus 25:23-28)
Most revealing in these comparisons is the striking disparity in size and number in all but the curtain. There are ten basins, ten lampstands, and ten tables in Solomon’s temple; the tabernacle has only one of each. Solomon’s altar is twenty times larger than the tabernacle’s altar, and the modest cherubim that sit upon the ark are dwarfed by the “wall to wall” cherubim of the temple (3:12). As for the seeming contradiction of the curtain, there is no other mention of such a temple veil in the Old Testament; 1 Kings 6:31-32 speak of “doors,” not a veil, at this point. Thus, both continuity with the ancient symbol of God’s presence and the magnificence of the current temple are subtly presented.
Fourteen occurrences of the verb “he [Solomon] made” leave no doubt as to who the chosen temple builder is (3:8, 10, 14, 15, 16 [twice]; 4:1, 2, 6, 7, 8 [twice], 9, 19). The account concludes with a clever twist: the same Hebrew root (shlm) lies behind both Solomon’s name and the verb “was finished” (5:1).