It’s funny, being comitted to Christ and deeply dedicated to my church but not having grown up in one. I stumble on observations and understandings on my own. Sometimes, the only thing that prevents people from saying “No Duh” Is that they are to nice. Other times, people find gentle and loving ways to tell me “No way” and they explain the glaring details that I’ve missed.
Once in a while, though, I happen upon things that I don’t think I would have if I didn’t have fresh eyes with which to see things.
I need others help in figuring out which my observations are going to be, usually. This observation isn’t an exception to that rule. I have no idea if I’m dead wrong, stating the obvious, or maybe on to something unusual.
In this post I shared some observations about 1 Kings. The gist is that the tradition of describing how God doesn’t want us to be part of an empire can be seen in the empire that Solomon created.
Since then, I’ve begun to wonder about the (human) writer of 1 Kings. Was he living and writing in a place that he could state his feelings explicitly? Becuase it seems like there is a couple possibilities. One is that I’m seeing stuff that isn’t there. The other is that this guy was very sly… and not a big fan of Solomon’s. The Holy Spirit, of course, would use this all for greater purposes. But that doesn’t change my basic point.
One thing I’m clear on is that the Hebrew Scriptures demonstrate mastery of parallelism: saying things in a certain way and then tweaking it just a bit for effect. Is parallelism going on in chapters 6 and 7 of of 1 Kings? I think maybe.
Chapter 6 “And 480 years after the Israelites come out of the land of Egypt… he (Solomon) began to build the Lor’d house. The length of the house Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits, it’s breadth twenty, and its height thirty cubits… So Solomon Built the temple buildings and finished it, and roofed the beams and boards of cedar… Now the Lord came to Solomon, saying “Concerning this house which you building, if you will walk in my statutues, execute my precents, and keep all My commandments to walk in them, then I will fufill to you My promises which I made to David your father.”
Chapter 7 “Solomon was building his own house thirteen years and he finished all of it… it’s length was a hundred cubits, it’s breadth fifty, and its hieght thirty cubits… He made the porch for the throne where he was to judge, the Porch of Judgement… His house where he was to well had another court behind the Porch of Judgement of similiar work. Solomon also made a house like this porch for the Pharaoh’s daughter”
The first thing I notice is that chapter 6 starts off stating that it took the Israelites nearly five hundred years to give God a house. Chapter 7 starts off stating that it took Solomon just thirteen to build his own. (And presumably he already had a posh set up before.)
The second thing I notice is the dismentions. Everybody seems to focus on how grand the temple was… But I’ve never heard anybody focus on the fact that it’s smaller than Solomon’s house! It seems that Solomon actually builds three houses: the first one is described in detail, the second is behind the throne of judgment, and the third is made for his wife. The implication is that each is close in size to the first house.
Lets bust out a little bit of elementary school geometry. Volume is calculcated by multiplying length, width, and hieght. The temple is 60 X 20 X 30 = 36,000 cubic cubits. Solomon’s first house is 100 X 50 X 30 = 150,000 cubits.
Solomon’s first house– all by itself– is roughly FOUR times as large as the temple!!!
But moreover, in the portion where the tremple is discussed God himself comes to speak. The portion about Solomon’s house describes how Solomon had (2?) thrones built from which he would judge. Is it anchronistic to see even this as a contrast between God himself speaking and Solomon seeking to set himself up as a God?
Later, in 8:10-44 there’s another interesting occurence. It’s enough to get me wondering, certainly not something I would bet the farm on. But it begins “When the priests had come out of the Holy Place, the cloud filled the Lord’s house. So the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s House. Then Solomon said …” From there, Solomon more or less preaches this big sermon. He starts off by focusing on what an awesome thing that he (that is, Solomon) did, that even his father David wasn’t allowed to do it. But this isn’t the detail I’m focused on.
The detail I’m focused on is that the priests appear paralyzed by the Glory of God. Solomon doesn’t.
If God showed up in some big way: if the Glory of God was present… who seems holier: the person who is so overwhelmed that he can’t do anything or the person who starts talking about God? Following this speech is a week of feasting and celebration.
By the way: Does scripture ever give Solomon, David, or the Kings the right to act in a way that appears to be like priests? They aren’t out of the tribe of Levis. (That’s a real question, not a rhetorical one)
At the end of chapter 8, Solomon (not God) calls an end to the feasting, celebration and sacrifices. Scripture says that the people blessed the king and went to their tents. Solomon appears to have enjoyed some political benefits to this whole deal.
And the beginning of Chapter 9 contains the last thing I’ll remark on for now: “When Solomon finished the building of the Lord’s house and the king’s house and all that he was pleased to do…”
Those last three words are so interesting to me. “All that he was pleased to do.” On the one hand, we should be pleased to do what God wants us to do. But on the other hand, I find myself wondering: is the writer trying again to emphasize the idea that Solomon was playing God, pursuing his own agenda, acting as if he runs the show.
I know that there are tremendous issues of context and translation running around in all this. I think as we interpret Solomon’s character an important part of all this is Ecclesiastes, which is absolutely the most under-rated book in the Old Testament.
I’m looking foreward to comments on all this to help me wander through what it all means.
This post was linked to Marty’s Monday Moments. Click here to read some more great stories in this blog carnival.