1 Kings 5; 6:1, 38: Building the Temple
Do you think these are pretty trees in the picture? (Show picture of cedars of Lebanon.) They look something like the firs that we use for Christmas trees, but they are different. See how flat they stretch out their branches. They are cedars of Lebanon, and they are the trees that King Solomon used when he built the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and his own palace. They are called cedars of Lebanon because they grow on Mount Lebanon in the very northern part of the Holy Land. The mountain was not in Solomon's country, but in the country that belonged to Hiram king of Tyre, a city on the sea near Mount Lebanon. Tyre was a great city, and among its people were famous sailors who went in their ships to distant lands; and there were skillful workers- carpenters and stone-cutters, and workers in bronze and other metals.
King Hiram was friendly to Solomon and sent him workers to help build the temple, and cedar wood. How would they carry the great logs so far from Mount Lebanon to Jerusalem? Hiram's servants took them down to the sea and made them into rafts and floated them down to Joppa. You must take your map and follow along the coast and see how they went. At Joppa they drew the logs ashore and Solomon's servants carried them up to Jerusalem.
There were a great many people at work. Besides Hiram's servants, there were many more whom Solomon gathered from the different tribes and from the native people of the land. So the timber was brought for the building. The stone was got in quarries near by, and it was cut to the right size and shape in the quarry, so that there was no tool of iron heard upon the stone while the temple was building.
Look with me from the Mount of Olives over Jerusalem. (Show picture.) On the hill across the Kidron valley you see the city wall, and beyond it the dome of the Mohammedan mosque with an open space about it. This mosque stands where the temple stood. The hill was called Mount Moriah. You will wish to know what the temple was like. It was quite different from the mosque that stands there now, although that is a pretty building. The plan of the temple was like the tabernacle, but it was larger. The temple had its inmost chamber for the ark, and the outer chamber for the altar of incense and the table of showbread and the lamp; and it had an open court about it where there was an altar for offerings and a laver for washing. All this was like the tabernacle, but larger.
There was another difference. The tabernacle was made of boards and curtains. The walls of the temple were built of stone. Inside they were covered with wood, and the floors and doors were of wood; and everywhere the wood was covered with thin gold. It must have been a beautiful sight when the doors of the temple were opened to the east, and the morning sun from over the Mount of Olives shone into the golden chambers. And besides, as the people gathered in the court to worship, they knew that the holy presence of the Lord was there.
It was a beautiful and holy temple. Seven years were spent in building it. I must read you some parts of the story. Perhaps you would like to hear about the bringing of the cedar trees and the great stones for the building. (1 Kings 5)
You remember how David had brought the ark of the Lord to Zion and pitched a tent for it there. He had wished to build a temple, but he was not permitted to do so because of his wars. Now things were different. Solomon was king, and we read that "Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon." (1 Kings 4:25) It was a peaceful reign and the time had come to build the temple of the Lord.
When David built himself a house, who helped him, sending him cedar trees and carpenters and masons? (2 Sam. 5:11) Hiram king of Tyre helped him, and it was perhaps the same Hiram who wow helped Solomon in the same way.
Have you found Tyre ow the map, and the sister city of Sidon? The Phoenicians who lived in these cities were famous sailors and skilled workers. The noble cedars of Lebanon grew in their mountains. Do you find Mount Lebanon standing not far back from the sea? They were fine evergreen trees reaching out their branches in floors one above another. "Fir wood" is also mentioned, and probably means cypress, a tall spire-like tree with wonderfully enduring wood, and perhaps the term includes other evergreen trees. Look in 2 Chron. 2:16 and tell me how the timber cut in Mount Lebanon was carried to Jerusalem.
Many workers were employed in building the temple. Hiram sent workers to Solomon, and Solomon gave in payment a supply of wheat and oil. Also Solomon himself raised a levy of workers from the tribes of Israel, who came in turn for one month's work and then were two months at home while others took their turn. And there were many more workers from the native people of the land. Stones were also weeded for the building. These were quarried near by. We can see large quarries at Jerusalem today, extending far under the city itself. Notice what is said about the cutting of these stones. (1 Kings 5:18; 6:7) You will see that it must have taken time to build the temple. Read 1 Kings 6:1, 38, and learn how long it was in building.
Now we must learn about the temple itself, and first, the place where it stood. It was on the hill Moriah. You find this hill on your map of Jerusalem, between the Kidron valley on the east and the Tyropoeon on the west. The hill had a rocky top which you can still see if you go into the mosque which now stands there. Here had been a threshing floor which David bought as a place to offer sacrifice (2 Sam. 24:15-25; 1 Chron. 3:1); and it was probably here long before that Abraham prepared to offer Isaac. (Gen. 22)
The top of the hill is not large, and it was probably at this time made larger by building up great walls from the hillside below, and filling in with earth and stonework. In this way space was gained for the court about the temple. The plan of the building was the same as the plan of the tabernacle. Do you remember the plan of the tabernacle? Can you sketch it for me; the most holy place, the holy place, and the court about it? The temple had the same three parts, but the dimensions were double those of the tabernacle. The most holy place was twenty cubits square instead of ten. The holy place was forty by twenty cubits. Even so you see that the building was not large, but it was rich and beautiful. Before the door, which was to the east, as in the tabernacle, was a porch across the front of the building. So much for the general plan.
We have seen how timber and stone were gathered for the work. We must learn how the different materials were used. The walls of the temple were of stone. They were sheathed inside with cedar and carved with cherubim and palm trees and open flowers. The partition between the two chambers was of cedar with chains of gold. The floor was made of "fir," probably cypress. The walls and floors of both chambers were overlaid with gold. The doors between the chambers were of olive wood; the outer doors of "fir," carved like the walls and overlaid with gold. If we rightly understand the description, outside the temple on the two sides and the back were little chambers in three stories, one above another, the timbers of the chamber floors and roof resting on ledges in the wall of the temple.
Look now inside and tell me what sacred furniture belongs in each part of the building. Here in the inmost chamber is the place for the ark, and two large cherubim of olive wood overlaid with gold stretch out their wings touching the walls on either side and meeting above the place of the ark. What pieces of furniture belong in the outer chamber, the holy place? New furniture was made for the temple besides that which had been in the tabernacle. And what belongs in the court? Here there were a large brazen altar, and in place of the small laver of the tabernacle, a brazen sea resting on twelve brazen oxen. At the porch were two beautiful brazen pillars.
So everything was finished even to the golden hinges of the doors. In another lesson we shall learn how the people came together to the dedication of the temple.
1. Who built the temple? By what plan was it built?
2. What materials were used? Who helped to furnish them?
3. What formed the walls of the temple without? What covered them within?
4. What were the three divisions of the temple? What furniture belonged to each?
Some member of the class must draw for us on the blackboard the plan of the temple, which is in general the same as the plan of the tabernacle. It will be well to keep this before us as we study the meaning of the sacred building and its three departments. In general, what is the meaning of the temple? You may truly say that it was the Lord's dwelling-place with the people of Israel, and that it represents every dwelling-place of the Lord. It represents heaven. It represents a person of heavenly character in whom the Lord can dwell; and in the highest sense it represents the Lord's Divine Humanity. Speaking of Himself, the Lord said, "In this place is one greater than the temple." (Matt. 12:6) Again, He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up, and he spake of the temple of his body." (John 2:19, 21) Again in the Revelation we read of the Holy City: "I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." (Rev. 21:22) We might have said nearly the same of the meaning of the tabernacle. And yet there is a difference between the two. The tabernacle with its wooden walls and its curtains has a somewhat tenderer meaning than the temple with its walls of stone. It represents a more tender and loving character and the Lord's presence in His Divine love, while the temple represents a more intellectual character and the Lord's presence in His wisdom. (R. 585)
Now with the plan of the temple still before us, let someone point out the meaning of the three departments of the building: the most holy place, the holy place, and the court. If we regard the temple as a type of heaven, we have here a suggestion of the highest heaven, the middle heaven, and the lowest heaven. You find the three heavens described in H. 29-40. Regarding the temple as a type of an individual person, the most holy chamber is the inmost loving consciousness of the Lord; the holy chamber with its lamp is the region of intelligent thought and worship; the open court is the outward life with its duties of repentance and consecrated usefulness - the laver and the altar.
We ought also to make a little study of the materials used in the building of the temple, most important among them the stone, the cedar timber, and the gold, or in the court, brass in place of gold. What do the stones represent in the temple of character? They are the sure facts of knowledge on which character rests. The timber of cedar and other trees? It represents the intelligent understanding and principles of life, which are also needed in the formation of a heavenly character. The cedars of Lebanon in particular, with their successive floors of foliage, represent the understanding of the relation of higher and lower things, spiritual and natural, Divine and human. The gold which lined the walls and floors of the temple? It represents the heavenly love which is within every deed and every thought of a heavenly life. As the stone supported the wood and the wood the gold which was pressed upon its carving, so facts of knowledge are the basis of intelligence, and intelligence gives form to love.
Thinking of the stones used in the building of the temple, what is the meaning of the fact that no tool of iron was heard upon the stone as the building grew? Compare the command in regard to stones used in the building of an altar. (Exod. 20:25) Both passages mean that we must take the Lord's truths as they are, and must not try to fashion them to suit ourselves. (A. 8941)
What is represented by Hiram's league with Solomon, and his help in building the temple? The Phoenicians as friendly neighbors of Israel represent some natural faculty serving the spiritual life. In particular, these sailors represent the faculty of exploring all realms of natural knowledge to gather in what may be useful in the building of heavenly character. (A. 2967; E. 514)