The first section of this chapter (1 Kings 7:1-12) describes briefly, but with some technical details (not always easy of interpretation), the building of the royal palace, including in this the hall of state, or “the house of the forest of Lebanon,” with its porch (1 Kings 7:2-6), the hall (or porch) of judgment (1 Kings 7:7), the royal residence, and the residence of the queen (1 Kings 7:8). These must have constituted a large group of buildings enclosed in a great court, situate on the Western Hill (“the city of David”), which is opposite the Temple on Mount Moriah, with a viaduct crossing the intervening valley (ordinarily called the Tyropæon), by which the king went up to the House of the Lord (see 1 Kings 10:5; 1 Chronicles 26:16; 2 Chronicles 9:4). Josephus (Antt. viii., 1 Kings 5) supplies a few additional details, but his account is rather vague and rhetorical.
The house of the forest of Lebanon—evidently so called from the forest of cedar pillars which supported it—was apparently a great hall of audience, 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high; along it ran longitudinally rows of pillars, supporting cedar beams and walls over them, and cedar roofs. In 1 Kings 7:2 it is said that there were “four rows of pillars,” and yet in 1 Kings 7:3 that the cedar beams rested on “forty-five pillars, fifteen in a row.” The difficulty thus created, of course vanishes if we are content to accept the LXX. reading, which has in 1 Kings 7:2 “three rows” instead of “four.” But this is probably a correction made to avoid the apparent contradiction, and gives no explanation of the origin of the curious reading of the Hebrew text. It is, perhaps, a better explanation of the passage to suppose that one row of pillars was built into the side wall, so that only three would bear the cedar beams. Josephus says that the hall was built after “the Corinthian manner,” that is (see Dict. of the Bible, PALACE), with a clerestory. In this case it would be not unlike a Basilica, having a higher central aisle between two rows of pillars, with a wall and windows above each, and two lower sides, or aisles, in one of which the side row of pillars was built into the wall, in the other standing clear of the wall. It is clear from 1 Kings 7:4-5, that there were three rows of windows, one, perhaps, in the clerestory, and two in the side walls.
(13) And king Solomon sent.—The record in the Chronicles (2 Chronicles 2:7; 2 Chronicles 2:13-14) gives what is evidently a more exact description of the facts here briefly alluded to. In Solomon’s first letter to King Hiram he asks for “a man cunning to work,” and with the answer the artificer Hiram is sent. His mixed parentage would enable him to enter into the spirit of the Israelite worship, and yet to bring to bear upon it the practical skill of the Tyrian artificer.
It is curious that no mention is made of the construction of the brasen altar. It has been supposed by some that the old altar reared by David (2 Samuel 24:25) was retained. But in 2 Chronicles 4:1, and in Josephus’s account, it is expressly said that a brasen altar was made by Hiram, 30 feet square and 15 feet high. Probably, therefore, the absence of all mention of it here is simply an omission in the record.
For the table of shewbread, see Exodus 25:23-28; Exodus 37:10-15; for the shewbread itself, see Leviticus 24:5-9. The “shewbread”—properly “bread of the face” (or presence) of God, translated in the LXX. Version as “bread of offering” or “of presentation”—was clearly of the nature of an Eucharistic offering to God of His own gift of bread—a kind of first-fruits, acknowledging that the whole sustenance of life comes from Him, and possibly also implying the truth more closely symbolised by the pot of manna, that “man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding out of the mouth of God.”
The flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs are the parts of the candlestick (mentioned in Exodus 25:31; Exodus 25:37-38); the “flowers” being the ornaments of the stem and branches, the “lamps” being the seven lights, and the “tongs” being used for trimming.
The various articles here mentioned are also enumerated in the description of the furniture of the Tabernacle, Exodus 25:29-38.
The snuffers.—The word is derived from a root signifying “to prune,” and is used for “pruning knives” in Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3. Some accordingly render it here by “knives,” but the common rendering “snuffers” suits the derivation well enough.
The spoons.—The name signifies simply “something hollow;” and in Numbers 7:86 “the spoons” are said to have been “full of incense,” and to have “weighed ten shekels apiece.” The right meaning is probably “incense pans.”
The censers.—This rendering is clearly erroneous. It should be “snuff-dishes,” or “ash-pans,” as in Exodus 25:38.