1 Kings 7 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

1 Kings 7
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

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.

But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house.
He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was an hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars.
And it was covered with cedar above upon the beams, that lay on forty five pillars, fifteen in a row.
And there were windows in three rows, and light was against light in three ranks.
And all the doors and posts were square, with the windows: and light was against light in three ranks.
And he made a porch of pillars; the length thereof was fifty cubits, and the breadth thereof thirty cubits: and the porch was before them: and the other pillars and the thick beam were before them.
(6) A porch of pillars, although by some authorities it is held to be a separate building, seems by the exact agreement of dimensions—its “length” being just the breadth of the hall—to have been a propylæon, or entrance vestibule, to the hall of state (like the porch, or vestibule, of the Temple), probably corresponding in the general arrangement of its pillars, and perhaps also in height. It had also a porch of its own, with a threshold (for the last clause of the verse should be rendered, “and a porch before it with pillars, and a threshold before them,”) forming a kind of plinth, or, possibly, a flight of steps.

Then he made a porch for the throne where he might judge, even the porch of judgment: and it was covered with cedar from one side of the floor to the other.
(7) The porch (or hall) of judgment was clearly a separate building, not described in the text, except as having been floored and ceiled with cedar. Mr. Fergusson, comparing it “with the remains of Assyrian and Persian examples,” supposes it to have been square, supported on four pillars in the centre, between which the throne stood, and having openings on the four sides for the public, the king, and his officers.

And his house where he dwelt had another court within the porch, which was of the like work. Solomon made also an house for Pharaoh's daughter, whom he had taken to wife, like unto this porch.
(8-11) The residence of the king, and the separate palace for the queen, distinct from the apartments of the inferior wives and concubines, are not described; except that they lay “within the porch,” that is, in the rear in another court, and were of “like work.” This is further explained by saying that they had costly stones of great size in the foundation, and stones above, hewn and sawn from top to bottom, carefully finished on the outside towards the great court, as well as on the inside, and were in all cases roofed with cedar. Josephus tells us that the inner court was adorned with trees and fountains, and had colonnades round it; and gives an enthusiastic description of the internal decoration of the rooms, panelled up to a certain height with polished marble, with a band of highly-wrought metal-work of foliage of all kinds above this, and the rest of the wall up to the ceiling plastered and painted in colours (“ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion.” Jeremiah 22:14). This description is curiously confirmed and illustrated by some of the recent discoveries at Nineveh.

All these were of costly stones, according to the measures of hewed stones, sawed with saws, within and without, even from the foundation unto the coping, and so on the outside toward the great court.
And the foundation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of ten cubits, and stones of eight cubits.
And above were costly stones, after the measures of hewed stones, and cedars.
And the great court round about was with three rows of hewed stones, and a row of cedar beams, both for the inner court of the house of the LORD, and for the porch of the house.
(12) The great court.—Finally, “the great court” round about is said to have resembled the “inner court” of the Temple, having an enclosure of three rows of stones, probably of large size, with a cedar coping. It seems evidently to have enclosed the whole palace, and may have contained quarters for the guards and the household. There must have been, of course, inner courts, round which both the more public and the more private buildings of the palace were grouped.

And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre.
(13-50) The exceedingly graphic and elaborate description of the work of Hiram on the vessels and furniture of the Temple, and on the great pillars, bears on the very face of it the most evident marks of historical accuracy and of the use of contemporary documents, and it has, moreover, great antiquarian interest. Looked at in itself, it shows that the Temple (like many other buildings in the comparative infancy of architecture) depended for its effect, not so much on size or proportion, as on rich material, elaborate decoration, and costly furniture, on which all the resources both of treasure and art were lavished. But besides this, the sense of the especial sacredness attached to all the vessels of the Temple, which was hereafter to degenerate into a Pharisaic superstition (see Matthew 23:16-18), suggested the most careful record of every detail, and reverently traced to “the Spirit of God” the gift of “wisdom of heart” “to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,” as in Bezaleel and Aholiab for the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:31-32), so also in Hiram for the Temple. There is something especially remarkable in this broad comprehensiveness of conception which recognises the illuminating and inspiring power of the Spirit of God, not only in the moral and religious teaching of the prophet and the devotional utterances of the psalmist, but in the warlike enthusiasm of the Judge, the sagacity of the statesman, the imaginative skill of the artist, and the wisdom of the philosophic thinker. Nothing could more strikingly illustrate the Apostolic declaration: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4).

(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.

He was a widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass: and he was filled with wisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work.
For he cast two pillars of brass, of eighteen cubits high apiece: and a line of twelve cubits did compass either of them about.
(15-22) With regard to the two pillars, Jachin (“He shall establish”) and Boaz (“In it is strength”), the text gives no account of their destination, except that they were set up in the porch of the Temple (1 Kings 7:21). Mr. Fergusson considers that they were supports to the roof of the vestibule; and if this were thirty cubits high, the twenty-seven cubits of each pillar, allowing for the slope of the roof to the apex, would suit well enough. But the absence of all reference to their position as parts of the building, and the entire separation of the description of their fabrication from the account of the building itself, rather favoured the other supposition, that they were isolated pillars set up in front of the porch as symbolic monuments, conveying the idea of Psalms 46, “God is our hope and strength;” “God is in the midst of her, therefore shall she not be removed.” It is particularly noticed (2 Kings 25:13-16; Jeremiah 52:17; Jeremiah 52:20-23) that they were broken up by the Chaldæans. on the capture of Jerusalem, and the brass carried away. The description is exceedingly elaborate, and, except in one or two parts, clear enough. The shaft of each pillar was twenty-seven feet high, and its diameter something less than six feet. Josephus says that it was hollow, but of considerable thickness. Above the shaft was a chapiter (or capital) of great proportionate size (seven and a half feet high), covered with a net-work and festoons of metal-work, and ornamented with two rows of pomegranates, a hundred in each row. Over these again was “lily-work” of six feet in height—probably some conventionalised foliage, technically known by that name, like the “honeysuckle ornament” in classical architecture, or the conventional “dog-tooth” or “ball-flower” of Gothic. The whole height, even if there were no base or plinth below, would be twenty-seven cubits, or forty feet and a half. In the Dict. of the Bible (TEMPLE) is given a drawing of a pillar at Persepolis, which bears a considerable resemblance to the general description here given, but, being executed in stone, is far less elaborate in ornamentation. The whole style of the narrative shows that these were regarded as monuments of the highest artistic skill, and well known to all, as from their position they would be constantly before the eyes both of priests and people. There was, so far as can be seen, nothing to correspond to them in the Tabernacle.

And he made two chapiters of molten brass, to set upon the tops of the pillars: the height of the one chapiter was five cubits, and the height of the other chapiter was five cubits:
And nets of checker work, and wreaths of chain work, for the chapiters which were upon the top of the pillars; seven for the one chapiter, and seven for the other chapiter.
(17) Seven for . . .—This is probably an erroneous reading. It should be “a net-work (or lattice-work) for the one chapiter, and a net-work for the other.”

And he made the pillars, and two rows round about upon the one network, to cover the chapiters that were upon the top, with pomegranates: and so did he for the other chapiter.
And the chapiters that were upon the top of the pillars were of lily work in the porch, four cubits.
And the chapiters upon the two pillars had pomegranates also above, over against the belly which was by the network: and the pomegranates were two hundred in rows round about upon the other chapiter.
(20) Over against (or rather, close to) the belly which was by the network.—The “belly” here (like the “bowls” or “globes” of the chapiters in 1 Kings 7:41-42) seems to signify the rounded form of the capital, where it comes down to join the shaft. At this junction the bands of pomegranate ornament ran round the shaft. In this verse it is obvious that there is an omission in the text. It should be, “were two hundred in rows round about the one chapiter, and two hundred in rows round about the other chapiter.” Hence the “four hundred” of 1 Kings 7:42 and 2 Chronicles 4:13.

And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.
And upon the top of the pillars was lily work: so was the work of the pillars finished.
And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
(23-26) A molten sea—a gigantic laver for the ablution of the priests—corresponding to the laver of brass in the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:18-21; Exodus 38:8). It had a diameter of 15 feet, and a height of 7½ feet; but as it held 2,000 baths, that is, 17,000 gallons (or, as in 2 Chronicles 4:3, 3,000 baths, that is, 25,500 gallons), it is clear that it could not have been a hemisphere, but must have bulged out in section. There must, however, have been first a bulging inwards, immediately under the rim: for the right translation of 1 Kings 7:26 declares that the rim was in “the form of a lily flower,” that is, curving outwards. Under the rim ran a double row of “gourd ornaments,” like those carved in the cedar-panelling of the Temple. The sea stood on twelve oxen, corresponding perhaps to the twelve tribes of Israel—the ox being possibly the same emblem which was used in the form of the cherubim—till it was taken down and placed on the pavement by Ahaz (2 Kings 16:17), and, like the great pillars, was broken up at last by the Chaldeans for the sake of the brass (2 Kings 25:13).

And under the brim of it round about there were knops compassing it, ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about: the knops were cast in two rows, when it was cast.
It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.
And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths.
And he made ten bases of brass; four cubits was the length of one base, and four cubits the breadth thereof, and three cubits the height of it.
(27-29) The smaller lavers of brass for washing the sacrifices, and the movable bases on which they rested, are described still more elaborately. Some of the details of the description are obscure, and it is clear that our translators were very much at fault about them. Generally, however, it appears that each base was a kind of hollow chest, 6 feet square on plan, and 4½ feet high, having at the angles pilasters or fillets (“ledges” in 1 Kings 7:28), with panels on each side (“borders” in 1 Kings 7:28), ornamented with “lions, oxen, and cherubims,” below which hung festoons of thin metal-work—(“certain additions made of thin work,” in 1 Kings 7:29). Each base was set on four brazen wheels with brazen axles (“plates” in 1 Kings 7:30) only 27 inches high, and with naves, felloes, and spokes, all cast in brass. On each base was a convex circular stand (1 Kings 7:35), with a “mouth,” or circular opening (apparently “the chapiter” of 1 Kings 7:31), upon which, or over which, the laver stood. This was nine inches high, ornamented with carvings of “cherubims, lions, and palm-trees.” From the four corners of the upper surface of the base sprang “undersetters,” apparently brackets helping to support the laver, which rested above the “mouth” of the convex stand, and to keep it fast in its place (1 Kings 7:30; 1 Kings 7:34). The laver was 6 feet in diameter, and held 40 baths, or about 360 gallons. The whole stood high, no doubt to bring it nearly on a level with the brazen altar, which was 15 feet high. In form, perhaps, each laver was a smaller copy of the molten sea. Of the whole a conjectural description and sketch are given in the Dictionary of the Bible, art. LAVERS.

And the work of the bases was on this manner: they had borders, and the borders were between the ledges:
And on the borders that were between the ledges were lions, oxen, and cherubims: and upon the ledges there was a base above: and beneath the lions and oxen were certain additions made of thin work.
And every base had four brasen wheels, and plates of brass: and the four corners thereof had undersetters: under the laver were undersetters molten, at the side of every addition.
And the mouth of it within the chapiter and above was a cubit: but the mouth thereof was round after the work of the base, a cubit and an half: and also upon the mouth of it were gravings with their borders, foursquare, not round.
(31) And the mouth.—This is most obscure, and in our version unintelligible. Keil renders it: “And the mouth of it (the laver) was within the chapiter, and in a cubit above it; and the mouth of it (the chapiter) was round, after the manner of pedestal, a cubit and a half; and upon the mouth was carved work, and the panels of it (the mouth) were square, not round.” But the rendering of the word “mouth,” now for the laver, now for the chapiter, is arbitrary, and the whole is still obscure. As the circular stand (or chapiter) was half a cubit deep, it looks as if the lower surface of the laver was a cubit above the “mouth.” If the laver were emptied by a cock near the bottom, this circular stand may have received the drippings. And as the top of this base would be square on plan, and the stand circular, there would be, of course, spaces left at each corner, which may possibly be the engraved “panels” referred to.

And under the borders were four wheels; and the axletrees of the wheels were joined to the base: and the height of a wheel was a cubit and half a cubit.
And the work of the wheels was like the work of a chariot wheel: their axletrees, and their naves, and their felloes, and their spokes, were all molten.
And there were four undersetters to the four corners of one base: and the undersetters were of the very base itself.
And in the top of the base was there a round compass of half a cubit high: and on the top of the base the ledges thereof and the borders thereof were of the same.
For on the plates of the ledges thereof, and on the borders thereof, he graved cherubims, lions, and palm trees, according to the proportion of every one, and additions round about.
After this manner he made the ten bases: all of them had one casting, one measure, and one size.
Then made he ten lavers of brass: one laver contained forty baths: and every laver was four cubits: and upon every one of the ten bases one laver.
And he put five bases on the right side of the house, and five on the left side of the house: and he set the sea on the right side of the house eastward over against the south.
(39) The sea.—This was placed on the south-eastern side of the Temple, on one side of the great altar; the ten smaller lavers were ranged five on each side.

And Hiram made the lavers, and the shovels, and the basons. So Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he made king Solomon for the house of the LORD:
(40) The lavers.—These should be (as in 1 Kings 7:45) “pots.” The verse describes the completion of Hiram’s work by the making of the smaller vessels.

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.

The two pillars, and the two bowls of the chapiters that were on the top of the two pillars; and the two networks, to cover the two bowls of the chapiters which were upon the top of the pillars;
And four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, even two rows of pomegranates for one network, to cover the two bowls of the chapiters that were upon the pillars;
And the ten bases, and ten lavers on the bases;
And one sea, and twelve oxen under the sea;
And the pots, and the shovels, and the basons: and all these vessels, which Hiram made to king Solomon for the house of the LORD, were of bright brass.
In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarthan.
(46) In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them.—The casting was done in the Jordan valley. Succoth is on the east side of Jordan, in the territory of Gad (see Genesis 33:17; Joshua 13:27; Judges 8:5)—the place of the halt of Jacob on his way from Padan-aram, and of the insult offered to Gideon and his revenge. Zarthan, or Zaretan (Joshua 3:16), is on the western side, in the territory of Manasseh, not far from Bethshan, and nearly opposite Succoth.

And Solomon left all the vessels unweighed, because they were exceeding many: neither was the weight of the brass found out.
(47) Solomon left all the vessels unweighed.—The brass for these vessels had (1 Chronicles 18:8) been taken by David from Tibhath and Chun, cities of the territory of Zobah, and laid up with other stores for the purpose of the Temple. How these cities were so rich in brass we are not told; but there are very ancient copper-mines, once worked by the Egyptians, in the Sinaitic peninsula; and the allusions to mining of various kinds in Job 28:1-11 (perhaps belonging to the time of Solomon) are very striking.

And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the LORD: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was,
(48) The altar of gold.—The altar of gold (1 Kings 6:20; 1 Kings 6:22) is the altar of incense. On it (see Exodus 30:1-10) incense was to be burnt morning and evening. The horns of the altar were to be touched with the blood of the sin offering (Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18) offered for the priests or the people; and it was to be solemnly purified by the blood of the sacrifice on the great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:18-19). The offering of incense, therefore, pre-supposed sacrifice already offered, and atonement made for sin. To the Israelites it clearly symbolised the offering of an acceptable worship by man, as restored to the love and communion of God. (See Psalm 141:2.) The priest, as a mediator between God and man, alone entered the Holy Place and offered the incense; the people “stood praying without” (Luke 1:10). To us it symbolises the intercession of the One Mediator, offered for us in the Most Holy Place of heaven, by whom alone our worship ascends to God. (See Hebrews 9:11-12; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:19-22; Revelation 8:3.)

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.”

And the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the oracle, with the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs of gold,
(49) The candlesticks of pure gold.—Whether these ten candlesticks were to supersede the one seven- lighted candlestick made for the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-40; Exodus 37:17-26), or were to be used in addition to it, we are not told. The latter supposition is, however, far more probable, both because it seems most unlikely that the old sacred candlestick should have been disused, and because in the second Temple only the one seven-lighted candlestick was provided, and (as the sculpture on the Arch of Titus shows) was carried in the Roman triumph after the destruction of the city. (In 2 Chronicles 4:8; 2 Chronicles 4:19, there is a mention of ten tables for shewbread, similarly ranged on each side of the Holy Place, probably in the same way, additional to the one proper table.) Josephus, in his rhetorical exaggeration, declares that Solomon made ten thousand candlesticks and ten thousand tables; but he distinguishes the one proper candlestick and table from the rest. The candlestick is elaborately described in the history of the construction of the Tabernacle, as of great costliness of material and workmanship. Placed in the Holy Place, opposite to the table of shewbread, and fed carefully with the sacred oil, it appears to have symbolised the gift of light to the world, as the shewbread the gift of life and sustenance, flowing from the presence 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.

And the bowls, and the snuffers, and the basons, and the spoons, and the censers of pure gold; and the hinges of gold, both for the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the house, to wit, of the temple.
So was ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the LORD. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD.
(51) The things which David his father had dedicated.—For the account of the dedication of various treasures, by David and by the princes of Israel, for the House of the Lord, see 1 Chronicles 18:8; 1 Chronicles 18:10-11; 1 Chronicles 22:3-5; 1 Chronicles 22:14-16; 1 Chronicles 28:14-18; 1 Chronicles 29:2-5. The accumulation was enormous. It had evidently been the work of years to gather it out of the spoils of many victories, offered in that spirit of thankful devotion which is expressed in David’s own words: “Both riches and honour come of thee . . . and of thine own have we given unto thee” (1 Chronicles 29:12; 1 Chronicles 29:14). The words used in the text seem to indicate that besides the vessels of gold, silver, and brass, gold and silver, in money or in ingots, were brought into the sacred treasury.

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