1 Kings 6 – “Solomon Builds the Temple”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Solomon builds the temple. The edifice contains three rooms, and the innermost chamber houses the ark and the cherubim.

II. Photo
The temple is decorated extravagantly: “And the entire House was overlaid with gold; he even overlaid with gold the entire altar of the Shrine.” (v. 22a)

III. Important Verses
2: The House which King Solomon built for the LORD was 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high.
11-13: Then the word of the LORD came to Solomon,  “With regard to this House you are building — if you follow My laws and observe My rules and faithfully keep My commandments, I will fulfill for you the promise that I gave to your father David: I will abide among the children of Israel, and I will never forsake My people Israel.”
22: And the entire House was overlaid with gold; he even overlaid with gold the entire altar of the Shrine. And so the entire House was completed.
27-28: He placed the cherubim inside the inner chamber. Since the wings of the cherubim were extended, a wing of the one touched one wall and a wing of the other touched the other wall, while their wings in the center of the chamber touched each other. He overlaid the cherubim with gold.
29: All over the walls of the House, of both the inner area and the outer area, he carved reliefs of cherubim, palms, and calyxes.
37-38: In the fourth year, in the month of Ziv, the foundations of the House were laid; and in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul — that is, the eighth month — the House was completed according to all its details and all its specifications. It took him seven years to build it.

IV. Outline
1. Construction begins
2-6. The “house” is built
7. No iron tools were used on premises
8-10. Stairways, chambers, and accoutrements
11-13. God’s promise to Solomon
14-18. The stones are given a cedar veneer
19-20. The innermost shrine is overlaid with gold
21-22. The interior of the house is overlaid with gold
23-28. The golden cherubim
29. Reliefs are carved along the walls
30. The floor is overlaid with gold
31-36. The doors
37-38. Summary statement: 7 years of construction

V. Comment
Chapter 6 gives a detailed description of the temple edifice and its accoutrements. Collins summarizes the temple’s structure and discusses its purpose. He writes: “Arguably the most important achievement attributed to Solomon was the building of the temple… It is not surprising that the temple conformed to the typical plan of temples in Syira-Palestine. The basic plan of the temple was a rectangle, 100 cubits long and 50 cubits wide (approximately 165 x 84.5 feet). There were three main sections: the ulam or vestibule, the hekal or main room (the same word is used for the temple as a whole), and the debir or inner sanctuary (holy of holies). There were doors to the second and third chambers. Various small chambers were located along the sides of the temple. Two bronze pillars, called Jachin and Boaz, stood in front of the temple. There was also a molten sea, which was a circular object, supported by twelve statues of oxen. The symbolism of these objects is not explained, but the sea recalls the prominence of Yamm (Sea) in the Ugaritic myths… In the ancient world, a temple was thought to be the house of the god or goddess, and the deity was supposed to liver there. While the god or goddess was present in the temple, no harm could befall the city. The Lament for the destruction of Ur in the early second millennium B.C.E. complains that the various deities abandoned their temples (ANET, 455-63). Later we shall find that Ezekiel has a vision of the glory of the Lord leaving Jerusalem before it was destroyed by the Babylonians.” (251)

An Assyrian cherub, housed in the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem

Verses 23ff. describe Solomon’s cherubim: “In the Shrine he made two cherubim of olive wood, each 10 cubits high…”  What were the cherubim and what did they look like? Myers writes: “The many variations of cherubim represented in the Bible—examples with one or more faces; with human, leonine, bovine, or aquiline faces; with two or four legs—correspond to various forms of composite beasts depicted in [ancient Near Eastern] art, particularly the art of Assyria… In ancient Israel and its contemporary world, cherubim were characterized by mobility, since they all had wings. By virtue of their combining features of different creatures or having more of such features than real animals or persons, they were unnatural. These characteristics made them apt symbols for divine presence, since deities moved where humans could not and were something other than either animals or humans. The cherubim of the Bible are hardly the round-faced infant cherubim known in Western art.”  (“Cherubim,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, pp. 899-900) Besides for depictions of winged figures (and palm trees, see Ezek 41:18) in Assyrian temples, it is interesting to note that the hebrew word keruvim “cherubim” is nearly identical to the Akkadian word that describes these figures, kuribu.

Scholars point out that both two and three-dimensional cherubim are described in the Bible. An example of the two-dimensional type was seen in chapter 3: “[Solomon] overlaid the House with gold — the beams, the thresholds, its walls and doors; he carved cherubim on the walls” (2 Chron 3:7). The two-dimensional cherubim were also woven into fabric, as seen in Ex 26:1: “As for the tabernacle, make it of ten strips of cloth; make these of fine twisted linen, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, with a design of cherubim worked into them.” Aside from our chapter and the Book of Kings, the three-dimensional cherubim can be found in the book of Exodus: “He made two cherubim of gold; he made them of hammered work, at the two ends of the cover: one cherub at one end and the other cherub at the other end; he made the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at its two ends. The cherubim had their wings spread out above, shielding the cover with their wings. They faced each other; the faces of the cherubim were turned toward the cover.” (Ex 37:7-9)

What did the cherubim represent? Myers writes: “The cherubim apparently constituted a resting place, or throne, for God’s invisible presence or glory (e.g., 2 Kgs 19:15 = Isa 32:16; 1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2). As part of the cultic furniture for God in the divine dwelling place on earth (see Haran 1978: 254–59), these cherubim are to be related to figures attested in several biblical texts which envisage God riding upon living composite beasts (e.g., Ps 18:10 = 2 Sam 22:11) or in which God’s glory rests upon the creatures (Ezekiel 10). Finally, the close connection between God and cherubim is present in their appearance as guardians of the garden of Eden (Gen 3:24).” (ibid.)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
De Vries, Simon John. “1 Kings” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 12 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1985).
Longe, Burke O. “1 Kings with an Introduction to Historical Literature” Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1984).
Photos taken from http://www.simpledebtfreeliving.com/images/gold-bars.jpg and