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7.2 Solomon And The Temple

David desired to build God a physical house. 2 Sam.7:7-11 records God's response in clear enough language: God did not want a physical house because

1. It was not really possible for man to build God a house (" Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?"   is surely rhetorical)

2. God had never asked Israel to build Him such a house before; indeed, it had been His expressed will that He should dwell among Israel in the temporary form of the tabernacle. God wanted a temporary abode to point forward to the fact that the reality was in Christ; thus the Law of Moses had features built into it which were intrinsically temporal, to point men forward to the stability and finality of Messiah. By building a permanent temple, Solomon reflects his lack of focus on the Messiah to come.

3. He would only have a permanent physical house when His people were permanently settled, never to be moved again (2 Sam.7:10), i.e. in the Kingdom. Yet Solomon perceived that his kingdom was in fact the final Kingdom of God. David made this mistake, in assuming in Ps. 72 that Solomon’s Kingdom would undoubtedly be the Messianic one…and Solomon repeated the error, yet to a more tragic extent.

4. God plays on the confusion between 'house' in the sense of household, and 'house' in the sense of a physical building. He says: 'You  want to build me  a physical house. But am going to build you  a household  which will be my Kingdom'. The implication is that David's desire for a physical house was altogether too human, and that there is an opposition between what man thinks he can physically do for God, and the fact that God wishes to do things for men. Yet Solomon went ahead with his works rather than grappling with the reality of sheer grace. He so wanted to do  something. He betrays this when he writes in Ecc. 9:7: “God now accepteth thy works”. The Hebrew translated “accepteth” means literally to satisfy a debt, and is elsewhere translated ‘to reconcile self’. He saw works as reconciling man’s debt to God, rather than perceiving that grace is paramount. He keeps on about David his father; and yet there was a crucial difference. David perceived the need for grace as the basis of man’s reconciliation with God; whereas Solomon thought it was works. David wrote that God wants a broken heart and not thousands of sacrifices; yet Solomon offered the thousands of sacrifices, but didn’t have the contrite heart of his father.

5. To desire a physical house for God is to overlook the promised Messiah- that was surely the implication of the promise of the Lord Jesus following right on from the statement that a physical house was not required. Is. 57:15 and 66:2 explain why this is- because God does not live in what man builds, but will fully dwell in one man to whom He will look, one who would have a humble spirit towards Him. And this man was of course the Lord Jesus. Solomon’s obsession with the temple therefore reflected his deeper problem- of not being focused upon the Christ to come.

Further, David’s plan to build a great house was met with the word of the Lord coming unto him “the same night” (2 Sam. 7:4), telling him not to do this. There seems to be some allusion to this by the Lord Jesus when He spoke of the rich fool who wanted to build a greater barn being told the Lord’s word “that same night”. It could be that the Lord Jesus saw something material and very human in David’s desire to build a house for the Lord.

So it ought to be clear from all this that God's response to the request to build a temple was negative; He did not want a physical temple. None of the four reasons for this listed above were just temporary considerations; they were reasons which were valid for all time. There can be no doubt that God's response here is at the basis of Is.66:1,2: " The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all these things hath mine hand made...but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" . God is saying that it simply isn't possible to build Him a house; instead, He seeks to dwell in the hearts of men. Yet Solomon wasn’t interested in the personal spiritual mindedness which enables this to happen. This is the same spirit as God's response to David: 'You can't build me a physical house, I will build my own household of believers'.

These words of Is.66 are twice quoted in the New Testament. " God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that  he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with though he needed any thing" (Acts 17:24,25). The reason for God not dwelling in temples is that He is Lord of heaven and earth. This reason does not change with time; He was Lord of heaven and earth at David's time just as    much as He is now.

Stephen was accused by the Jews of blaspheming the temple. In reply, he gives a potted history of Israel, emphasizing how the faithful were constantly on the move rather than being settled in one physical place. He was subtly digging at the Jewish insistence that the temple was where God lived. In this context, he refers to Solomon's building of the temple in a negative light. He says that David tried to find a tabernacle for God, " But  Solomon built him an house  . Howbeit  the most High dwelleth not  in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne...what house will ye build me?" (Acts 7:46-49). This cannot mean 'God no longer dwells in the temple as He used to before Christ's death', because the reason given is that the prophet Isaiah says that God cannot live in houses. This reason was true in Isaiah's time, before the time of Christ. It would seem that Stephen is politely saying: 'Solomon made this mistake of thinking that God can be limited to a physical building. You're making just the same mistake'. And he goes on to make a comment which could well allude to this: " Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers (including Solomon) did, so do ye" (Acts 7:51). Further evidence that Stephen saw Solomon's building of the temple in a negative light is provided by the link between Acts 7:41 and 48: " They made a calf...and rejoiced in the works of their own hands  ...howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands  " . The word " made" is stressed in the record of Solomon's building the temple (2 Chron. 3:8,10,14-16; 4:1,2,6-9,14,18,19,21). The work of the temple was very much produced by men's hands  (2 Chron. 2:7,8). Things made with hands refers to idols in several Old Testament passages (e.g. Is. 2:8; 17:8; 31:7). Significantly, Solomon's temple is described as being made with hands in 1 Chron. 29:5. And it may be significant that the words of Is. 66:1,2 concerning God not living in temples are quoted by Paul with reference to pagan temples in Acts 17:24, and concerning the temple in Jerusalem by Stephen. The building of the temple became an idol to Solomon. Human motives get terribly mixed. One is reminded of William Golding’s novel, The Spire, in which a bishop becomes obsessed with building a huge spire on his church- subliminally finding in it a phallic symbol. The temple project became an obsession with Solomon; after his death, his people complained at the “grievous servitude” which Solomon had subjected them to (2 Chron. 10:4). But the Hebrew word “servitude” is that repeatedly used to describe the “service” of the temple by the people (1 Chron. 25:6; 26:8,30; 27:26; 28:13-15,20,21; 29:7; 2 Chron. 8:14).Solomon became obsessed with making others ‘serve God’ when it was effectively serving him; he came to be abusive to God’s people, when the initial idea of the temple was that it was to be built in order to help God’s people serve Him. And such obsession, turning well motivated projects into means of personal ego tripping, with all the resultant abuse, has sadly not been unknown amongst us.

So what, then, was God referring to when He told David that David's son would build him a house? Firstly, we must bear in mind that in hundreds of places, the Hebrew word for " house" means 'household'. The eternal house promised to David is paralleled with the Kingdom; and a Kingdom is comprised of people. The Kingdom is the house of Jacob (Lk. 1:33). That the house of David is the Kingdom is evident from 2 Sam. 7:13,16; 1 Chron.17:14 (cp. Lk.11:17). The Kingdom was taken from the house of Saul and given to the house of David (2 Sam.3:10), but later the Kingdom was taken from the house of David because of Solomon's apostacy (1 Kings 14:8). This is proof enough that at best the promises to David had only a tiny fulfilment in Solomon's Kingdom.

The New Testament is very insistent that the true temple of God is the body of Christian believers (1 Cor. 9:13; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 10:21; 1 Pet. 4:17; Rev. 3:12; 11:1,2; 1 Tim.3:15). This string of passages is quite some emphasis. Yet Christ was the temple; he spoke of the temple of his body (Jn. 2:19-21; Rev. 21:22). For this reason, the Gospels seem to stress the connection between Christ and the temple (Mk.11:11,15,16,27; 12:35; 13:1,3; 14:49; Lk. 2:46; 21:38). Christ's body was the temple of God. By being in Christ, we too are the temple (1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:21), our  body is the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19). Yet Solomon was not Christ centred; he didn’t want to see this connection. And we too can have an over-physical view of the Kingdom, centred around a literal temple in Jerusalem etc., rather than perceiving that the Kingdom / reign of God is, in its essence, over the hearts of men and women like us. The future political Kingdom will be the concrete articulation of the essence of the Kingdom principles which are now being lived out in the hearts of the people who are under the Lord’s present kingship. In the person of Jesus, the essence of the Kingdom came nigh to men (Mt. 10:7; 11:4; 12:28)- and this was why one of His titles is “the Kingdom”. The Kingdom of God is about joy, peace and righteousness more than the physicalities of eating and drinking. In this sense the Kingdom was “among” first century Israel. The Kingdom of God is not merely a carrot held out to us for good behaviour. It is a reality right now, in so far as God truly becomes our king. Even in the Old Testament, the word " temple" does not normally refer to the physical temple outside the records of Solomon's building of the temple. It is often stated that the house David's seed was to build would be for the Name of Yahweh. His Name refers to His mental attributes. A physical house is inappropriate to express these. If the house refers to a household of righteous believers, all becomes plain. This explains why 2 Sam. 7:13,26 parallels God's eternal name with the eternal house and Kingdom which was promised to David. Building a house was a common Hebrew idiom for developing a household (Ruth 4:11; Dt. 25:9). God's promise to David about building him an eternal household was anticipated in His words to Eli: " I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind (i.e. David, 1 Sam. 13:14): and I will build him a sure house " , in contrast to God's destruction of Eli's household (1 Sam. 2:35). 1 Kings 11:38 clinches the idea that this refers to David: " I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house  as I built for David" . In passing, note that these words to Solomon remind him that God will build him  a house, in opposition to the way in which Solomon so frequently speaks about building God a house.

Once we understand that the house God would build for David refers to the household of believers, it becomes evident that the builder of that household must be God, through the Lord Jesus, the great son of David. We are built up a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5), by God the builder of all (Heb. 3:4; 11:10). Psalm 127 is prefaced with the information that it is a Psalm for Solomon- perhaps given by some nameless prophet (Gad? Nathan?) to warn him of where he was going. Verse 1 reminds him that God must be the builder of any house, or else the builders labour in vain. There is good reason to think that Solomon utterly failed to appreciate this. The records stress time and again that Solomon  built the temple (1 Kings 6:2,14; 9:10,25; 10:4; 1 Chron.6:10,32; 2 Chron. 8:1,12; 9:3; Acts 7:47); yet the house referred to in the Davidic promises was to be built by God, through David's Messianic Son, the Lord Jesus. Zechariah prophesied at the time of the rebuilding of the physical temple. It is significant, in this context, that Zech. 6:12 reminds Israel that the true temple of God will be built by the Branch, the Lord Jesus.

By now, a number of questions will be arising in the minds of the Bible student:

1. But surely God did  dwell in the temple?

2. David said that God had told him that he couldn't build the temple because he had shed so much blood, but Solomon was to build it.

3. In many verses in the Psalms, David expresses his understanding that God's temple is in Heaven (e.g. Ps. 11:4); both David and Solomon recognized that God cannot be confined to a physical house, seeing that even the heavens cannot contain Him (2 Chron.6:18).

The answer to these questions provides valuable insight into God's way of working with men, and also into the minds of David and Solomon. If God did  want a physical temple and if He did willingly dwell in it, then so many of the above verses and arguments cannot be made sense of. If God wanted the physical temple, then the reasons He gave David for not building it are logically contradictory, as is the reasoning of Paul and Stephen in the New Testament (1).

So now we will consider the questions posed above.

1. The fact is that God did  dwell, temporarily, in Solomon's temple. His glory entered it, and later left it in Ezekiel's time. This is the classic example of the way in which God will go along with men in their mistaken enthusiasm, working with them, even though this is contrary to His preferred way of doing things. A similar example is found in the way God forbad Israel to have a human king, because to do so would be a denial of His superiority and of their covenant relationship with Him. And yet Israel had a king. God did not turn a blind eye to this. Instead He worked through this system of human kingship. Or take marriage out of the faith. This is clearly contrary to God's ideal wishes. And yet in some cases He is prepared to work through this, in order to being about His purpose. There is even the possible suggestion in Acts 15:10 that God was ‘tempted’ to re-enstate the law of Moses, or parts of it, in the first century, seeing that this was what so many of the early Christians desired to keep. That God is so eager to work with us should in itself be a great encouragement. Yet we must not come to presume upon God's patience, assuming that He will go along with us.

In any case, 2 Chron. 7:12 says that God accepted the temple only as a place of sacrifice, i.e. a glorified altar (cp. 2 Sam. 24:17,18). And yet- God didn't really want sacrifice (Ps. 40:6; Heb. 10:5). " Now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever" (2 Chron.7:16) is a conditional promise, followed by five verses of conditions concerning Solomon's spirituality which he overlooked. Like Solomon, we too can fix upon promises without considering their conditionality. There is good reason to think that communally and individually we are increasingly shutting our eyes to the possibility of our spiritual failure and disaster. God constantly warned Solomon about the conditionality of the promises, before the building started (2 Sam. 7:14), during it (1 Kings 6:11-13) and immediately after completing it (1 Kings 9:2-9). Note, too, that Solomon had the idea that if sinful Israel prayed towards the temple, they would somehow be forgiven because of this. God’s response was that if they sought Him wherever they were and repented, then He would hear them- the temple was not to be seen as the instrument or mediatrix of forgiveness which Solomon envisaged. Likewise, Solomon’s implication that prayer offered in the temple would be especially acceptable was not upheld by God’s reply to him about this (2 Chron. 6:24-26 cp. God’s response in 2 Chron. 7:12,13).

2. It is nowhere recorded that God actually said that David could not build the temple because he had shed so much blood. Why should it be morally objectionable for David to build the temple because he was a man of war? Yahweh is a man of war, yet He was to build David's house. We only learn about God's objection to David building the temple from the passages where David reports what God apparently told him, and from Solomon repeating this. If God did actually say this, then there is a logical contradiction between this and His statements about not wanting a house at all. If He was saying 'I want a physical house, but not built by David', then this appears irreconcilable with the reasons He is actually recorded as giving David for not wanting a house (see the four points we began with). Either God wanted a house or He didn't. We are told in Is.66:1 that it is not possible to build God a house; and we have seen above that the house God wants is a household of believers, built by Himself through Christ. So we have to conclude that David was deeply puzzled as to why he couldn't build God a house, and he concluded that it must be because he had shed so much blood; and therefore he eventually came to the conclusion that God had actually said this to him. It is quite likely that David was paranoid about being guilty of the blood of Saul's house (2 Sam. 3:28,29; 4:11,12; 1:16 cp. 16:8); see how aware of this he felt in 1 Sam. 22:22; 24:5; 26:9.  This would not be the first time Yahweh's servants have done this kind of thing- speculating upon what they wish God had said, until they come to the conclusion that this is actually what He wants. Nathan initially told David to build the temple, sure that this was what God would say- but not so. The sad thing is that Solomon took this as Scripture. David's immediate response to the promises to him says nothing about Solomon building the temple; rather does David praise God for His plan of salvation in Christ. One wonders how accurate was David's account of the promises in 1 Chron. 22:9: " A son shall be born to thee...I will give him rest from all his enemies [without mentioning any conditions]...his name shall be Solomon" . Due to his apostacy, Solomon did not have rest from his enemies (1 Kings 5:4).  Note that the fact the record is undoubtedly inspired does not mean that all inspired words are factually accurate- the speeches of Job’s friends are recorded under inspiration, as are the claims of Sennacherib, but what they say is criticized within Scripture as being inaccurate.

There can be no doubt that David was proud about his sons; his soppy obsession with Absalom indicates that he cast both spirituality and rationality to the winds when it came to them. The words of 1 Chron.28:5,6 indicate this: " Of all my sons (for the Lord hath given me many sons,) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the Kingdom of the Lord over Israel. And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts  : for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father" . We have to ask: Is this what God actually said? The records of the promises to David in 2 Sam.7 and 1 Chron. 17 contain no specific reference to Solomon, nor do they speak of him building physical courts for God. We have shown that the Davidic promise is fundamentally concerning David's greater household, rather than a physical house. So it seems that David became obsessed with the idea of Solomon being the Messiah, building a physical house for God, and being king over the eternal Messianic Kingdom. The words of Ps. 110:1 are applied by the NT to Jesus, but there is no reason to think that they were not primarily spoke by David with his eye on Solomon, whom he addresses as his Lord, such was his obsession: “The Lord saith unto my Lord…” (RV), and the rest of the Psalm goes on in the language of Ps. 72 to describe David’s hopes for Solomon’s Kingdom. ‘Solomon’ was actually called ‘Jedidiah’ by God through Nathan (2 Sam. 12:25). The ‘beloved of God’ was surely prophetic of God’s beloved Son. When God said “This is my beloved Son”, He was surely saying ‘Now THIS is the Jedidiah, whom I wanted Solomon to typify’. But David calls him Solomon, the man who would bring peace. I suggest that David was so eager to see in Solomon the actual Messiah, that he chose not to use the name which God wanted- which made Solomon a type of a future Son of God / Messiah. And this led to Solomon himself being obsessed with being a Messiah figure and losing sight of the future Messiah.

The point has been made elsewhere that David seems to have become obsessed with preparing for the physical building of the temple in his old age. He truly commented: " The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" (Ps. 69:9). The RV margin of 1 Chron. 28:12 makes us wonder whether the dimensions of the temple were in fact made up within David’s own mind: “David gave to Solomon his son the pattern…the pattern that he had in his spirit  [AV “by the spirit”] for the…house of the Lord”.

There are several other examples of David wildly over-interpreting. 2 Chron. 3:1 implies David assumed that the spot where the Angel appeared to him in 2 Sam. 24:17,18 was where he should build the temple. And David's prophecy about his son in Ps.72:12 was not fulfilled in Solomon as he confidently expected; Solomon whipped the people rather than delivering the needy who cried for help. And his throne hardly endured as long as the sun. Further, David assumes that “the Lord hath said unto [Shimei], Curse David” (2 Sam. 16:10); but later he orders Solomon to punish Shimei for doing this. So it seems that David had a way of assuming God had spoken when it was more his own assumption. Solomon likewise came to assume things about God in order to justify his passion for building a temple. He claims that God “said that He would dwell in the thick darkness” (1 Kings 8:12), but actually there’s no record God ever said that. What He said was that He would dwell in the hearts of men and not in a house.

There are some hints in 1 Chron. 29 that the plans which David had for the temple were not necessarily from God but from his own desires, which he assumed were confirmed by God.We read of "the pattern of all that [David] had by the spirit" (1 Chron. 29:12)- but there is no definition of whose spirit. One would expect to read that he received the pattern of the temple by the Spirit of God, but the wording is perhaps purposefully vague- as if to suggest it may have come from his own spirit. 1 Chron. 29:19 seems to emphasize that it was only David's opinion that his plans were confirmed by God: "All this said David, the Lord made me understand...".

Solomon came to overlook the conditionality of the promises because his father had done the same. David on his deathbed speaks of how “God hath given one to sit on my throne this day, mine eyes even seeing it” (1 Kings 1:48). He forgot how those promises more essentially spoke of his house “for a great while to come”, and how only after “thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” would David see “thine house and thy kingdom established for ever before thee” (2 Sam. 7:12,16), thus implying David’s resurrection. He lost this focus in his enthusiasm for Solomon, and it seems that Solomon followed suite. There is an intended ambiguity in the Hebrew text of 2 Sam. 23:5. The AV has: “Although my house be not so with God…this is all my salvation”; whilst the NIV and other translations suggest the opposite: that because his house was in order, therefore this was all his salvation and desire fulfilled. Solomon and David were sure that the house of David was “with God”, and yet from God’s perspective they weren’t, and the fulfilment of the promises would have to be in the future Messiah.

3. David seems to have recognized that the building of the temple was conditional on Solomon's spirituality, but he overlooked this in his enthusiasm for Solomon to be the Messiah. He tells Solomon to show himself a man (1 Kings 2:2), and goes on in v. 4 to speak of how “a man” would eternally reign on his Messianic throne. He was encouraging Solomon to be and act like Messiah. Ps. 127 is " For Solomon" (v.2 " beloved" = Heb. Jedidah), and warns him that his labour for the temple will be in vain unless God  builds it. The Psalm basically says that God will build Solomon a house in the sense of a family centred in the beloved seed who would die [“sleep”] to enable it; and therefore Solomon should not be so sweating himself day and night to build God a house / temple. This is the very message which God had given David earlier. David and Solomon evidently shelved their knowledge of the fact that Heaven is God's dwelling place. It would seem that Solomon particularly was guilty of a false humility; there is a gross contradiction within his words of 2 Chron. 6:2,18: " I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever...But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built?" . This is one of several hints that Solomon felt that the full fulfilment of the Davidic promises was to be found in him (cp. 2 Chron. 6:10). He failed to look forward to the spirit of Christ, instead becoming obsessed with the achievement of his own works. He was largely encouraged in this by David, who seems to have felt that Solomon was the Messiah figure the promises spoke about. Thus Ps.72 is dedicated to Solomon, and yet it speaks clearly of the messianic Kingdom. In the same way as David came to misquote and misapply the promises God made to him, Solomon did likewise. God told David that He did not want a physical house, because He had never commanded this to be done at any time in the past. Solomon misquotes this in 2 Chron. 6:5,6 to mean that God had never asked for a physical house in the past, but now he had asked David's son to build such a house in Jerusalem.

Another example of Solomon misquoting God is in 2 Chron. 6:6. Solomon claims that God said: “I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there”. God had chosen no resting place, although it would have been politically convenient for Solomon if the city of Jerusalem as a city was where God had chosen to dwell. And so he kept thinking that way until he persuaded himself that in fact this was what God had said. David had charged Solomon with the words which God had spoken to him about Solomon: “If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul” (1 Kings 2:4). But Solomon subtly changes this when he reminds God of how He had supposedly told David: “There shall not fail thee a man to sit on the throne of Israel; so that they children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me” (1 Kings 8:25). Two things become apparent here:

- The conditionality of the promise to David about Solomon is totally overlooked.  “If thy children…” becomes “so that…”, with the implication that David would always have descendants on the throne who would walk obediently before God. The possibility of personal failure had been removed by Solomon from his own perception of God.

- God’s desire that Solomon should “walk before me in truth” was changed to “walk before me as thou [David] hast walked before me”. This defined walking before God personally as having the relationship with God which your father had. And so often we have made the same mistake. The call to personally follow the Lord has become displaced by a following Him through others.

Notice how Solomon says these words to God Himself. Solomon had persuaded himself that this truly was what God had asked of David and himself, and so he comes out with these words to God.

Solomon's words to Hiram in 2 Chron. 2:3-6 also seem to smack of a false humility. He pompously informs Hiram of the magnificence of his project, lost in the manic obsession of the powerful architect, and then concludes: " Who am I then, that I should build (God) an house?" . Confirmation of this is provided by the way in which Jer. 22:13-17 describes Jehoiakim's proud building of his own cedar house in the language of Solomon's building of the temple.

From all this we can see in Solomon a believer gone wrong. He did not completely cast off his faith in God and His word. Instead his service to God became a case of living out parental expectation, he lost sight of the future Kingdom and the greatness of Christ; typology meant little to him. He had the Kingdom in this life, and saw his service to God as an expression of his own works, receiving his own gratification and self-fulfilment in his works for God. David had actually prepared everything for the temple, and yet still Solomon prepared even more works; clearly he was obsessed with his own self-expression and fulfilment, and used service to God as a means of expressing this. He came to read God's word just as he wished to see it, all he saw in it was justification for his own actions; he failed to realize the constant emphasis there upon the conditionality of the promises to David. God reminded him at least twice that the promises would only be fulfilled if he kept God's words (1 Kings 6:12; 2 Chron.7:16-19). Solomon was keen on the promises, but he failed to really think what they required of him. In some ways Solomon became over familiar with God, he minimalized God so that He could live in a house built by man. His prayer of 2 Chron.6:33 speaks as if the heavens where God lived were actually the temple; he bid men pray towards the temple where God lived, rather than to God in Heaven. Yet theoretically he recognized the magnitude of God (2 Chron.6:18); yet the vastness of God, both in power and Spirituality, meant little to him; it failed to humble him as it should have done.  It is a feature of human nature to be able to perceive truth and yet act the very opposite. His enthusiasm for his own works lead him to lose a true relationship with God. The idea of salvation by grace became lost on him, loving response to God's forgiveness was not on his agenda, true humility was unnecessary for him, given his certainty that he was King as God intended. He reasoned that God would hear his prayers because they were uttered in the temple of his own hands, rather than because of any personal faith (1 Kings 8:52). Indeed, Solomon legalistically demands that God maintain [as in a court of law] the legal cause or "right" of His people if they pray towards the temple (1 Kings 8:45,49). Legalism and faith are opposed to each other, and Solomon's usage and conception of the temple was legalistic rather than faith based. When dedicating the temple, Solomon asks God to incline the hearts of Israel to be obedient to His commandments (1 Kings 8:57); and whilst God can and does do this, Solomon's implication seems to be that any disobedience would therefore effectively be God's fault for not making His people obedient. He failed to see the need for personal election to obey God's ways.

Fundamentally, Solomon lacked faith in Christ and the Kingdom, and thereby he lacked the humility and other spiritual attributes which spring from this. Because of this, Solomon lost his faith in the idea of the resurrection (Ecclesiastes is proof of this) (2); he felt that the Messianic Kingdom was here and now. Because Solomon lacked a future hope, his life eventually became a meaningless round of existence, no matter how stimulating it may have appeared to be. L.G. Sargent observed: “The man to whom life is a meaningless round has no inward repose but an inward weariness, and without a centre his life may become disorganized; he may break down, morally, mentally, emotionally…” (Ecclesiastes And Other Studies, Birmingham: CMPA, 1965 p. 14). This is exactly what happened to Solomon- this is the life he observed in Ecclesiastes. And even our Christian life can slip into this “meaningless round” unless God’s wisdom is a gripping vitality in our deeply internal experience.

Solomon was so confident in the fact that David was his father and that he was the Messiah, that the need to strive for personal spirituality and be aware of his possibility of failure were irrelevant to him (3). And we too can lack a sense of the future we might miss. Remember that 1 in 3 of those baptized leave, and many more admit to spiritually falling asleep. Solomon had God's wisdom throughout his apostacy (Ecc. 2:9), as the Truth ever remains with us. God put that wisdom in his heart in order for him to help others, both in Israel and in the world (2 Chron. 9:23); yet Solomon failed to realize that he needed to apply it to himself. He speaks about him being King in Jerusalem (Ecc. 1:1,12; Prov. 1:1) as if this was the ultimate fulfilment of the Davidic promises. Consider the implications of 2 Chron. 1:9: " O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth...give me now wisdom, that I may go out and come in before (i.e. lead) this people" . Solomon was asking for wisdom because he thought that he was the Messiah, and he saw wisdom as a Messianic characteristic. He failed to realize that the promises to Abraham and David were only being primarily fulfilled in him (e.g. 1 Kings 4:20); he thought that he was the ultimate fulfilment of them (1 Kings 8:20 states this in so many words). His lack of faith and vision of the future Kingdom lead him to this proud and arrogant conclusion (cp. building up our own 'Kingdom' in this life through our lack of vision of the Kingdom).

“The people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built” (1 Kings 3:2) surely reflects Solomon’s perspective- for God Himself didn’t need a built house in which sacrifice could be offered. The temple became such an obsession with Solomon that he came to think that no really acceptable worship could occur outside of the idea which he had so developed in his own mind. It’s rather like thinking that one must have a physical church building in which to be an ecclesia of the living God- who doesn’t dwell in buildings made with hands. Remember that Solomon loved building (Ecc. 2:4-6)- he built cities and buildings because it was “the desire of Solomon which he desired” (1 Kings 9:19 AVmg.), i.e. one of his dominant desires. So when we read that it was the desire of Solomon to build the temple (1 Kings 9:1,11), he was merely serving God in a way that naturally appealed to him anyway. And when he had finished that desire when the temple was completed (9:1), he was in the same position as when in Ecclesiastes he describes how he indulged every desire up to the very end, and then was left with the emptiness of vanity. The spirit of walking out against the wind of our desires in order to serve God simply wasn’t with him. “I gat me men singers and women singers…musical instruments, and that of all sorts” (Ecc. 2:8) were things he did when he  tried to find the meaning of life outside personal faith in God. “I gat me”, he said- he organized the temple worship, the courses of singers etc., because he liked music and orchestra- not from true service to God. Many like the Queen of Sheba rewarded him for his wisdom with presents- and “I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces” who visited him (Ecc. 2:8). He retained wisdom theoretically, but he allowed the human benefits of ‘having the truth’ to swamp him. And so we must beware, lest, e.g., the happy social environment which knowing the Truth has generated for some comes to dominate our lives of itself; we may ‘retain wisdom’ as Solomon did, but the fire of real spirituality can drop out of our lives so easily.

Solomon didn't like the idea of God doing something for him (i.e. building the house); in his own mind, he swamped this concept with his obsession for achieving his own works. The fact that God needs and requires nothing failed to register with him; the fact that salvation is by pure grace meant nothing to him. After Solomon finished the temple, he started work on his own house; Ecc. 2:4 relates how he built houses and all kinds of gardens, travelling down every road of human experience. The implication of this is that once the temple was finished, he felt that the Kingdom had come, and that he must create it himself. He taught Israel that if they sinned even in captivity, then all they had to do was pray towards the temple and they would be forgiven. He saw in that building some kind of atonement for sins. He lost sight of the importance of the blood that made atonement; he replaced the blood of Christ with a work of his own hands. Indeed, it would seem that God’s response to the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 9:7 corrects what Solomon has said, in that He says that if Israel sin then He will cast the temple too out of His sight; which is rather different to how Solomon instructed the people to gain forgiveness for the sake of the temple if they were in dispersion (4). He saw the temple as a talisman- the need for real, meaningful change and repentance and spiritual mindedness to enable the dwelling of God went unperceived. The constant moral and physical experimentation led Solomon to the deep cynicism of Ecclesiastes: 'If this is the Kingdom, the ultimate experience, then I don't think much of it'. Ecclesiastes emphasizes that Solomon experienced more glory and wisdom than any other who had been in Jerusalem (Ecc. 1:16; 2:7,9); this suggests that he felt he had reached the ultimate experience of the Kingdom, and yet he was not impressed by it. He lacked the faith and humility to look ahead to the future Kingdom, and to realize thereby that all the achievements of this life are as nothing.

In the same way as in Proverbs, Solomon made his commands equal to those of God, so he came to see his throne as the throne of God. He made 12 lions to stand on either side of his throne (2 Chron. 9:19), perhaps in imitation of how the Angels were perceived to be on either side of God’s throne (1 Kings 22). Of course, he was sitting on the throne of the Lord as king over Israel. But he seems to have taken this to the extreme of thinking that he himself was some kind of God over Israel. And the lesson for us is to perceive ourselves as God’s servants and representatives, but not to take this to the extent that we think that all of our actions are thereby justified as somehow Divinely sanctioned. The end result was that Solomon lost sight of the future Kingdom- and we too will likewise lose our way if we de facto consider our little kingdoms to effectively be God’s Kingdom.

God takes no pleasure in huge numbers of animal sacrifices (Heb. 10:6). The way that Solomon offered so many animals at the temple's dedication that the altar [built by God's specifications] was too small for them rather indicates how out of synch Solomon was with Divine thinking.


(1) The somewhat unusual idea that Solomon's building of the temple was not actually what God wanted is confirmed by the fact that Jer. 22:13-17 denounces Shallum in the language of Solomon: Building a cedar house, not following the righteous ways of his father, oppressing people needlessly, making a house with large chambers and windows, not paying the wages of those who helped build the house.

(2) Paul quotes Solomon's words in Ecc. 2:24 as the words of those who have no faith that there will be a resurrection (1 Cor. 15:32). The rich fool likewise disbelieved the resurrection, and his words also allude to those of Solomon (Lk. 12:19 = Ecc. 2:24; 11:9).

(3) This lack of self examination and confidence that he could not spiritually fail is reflected in 1 Kings 11:2,3, where we are reminded that God had said that foreign wives would " surely...turn away your heart after their gods" . How " surely" this would happen was not believed by Solomon. " He had seven hundred wives...and his wives turned away his heart" . He started marrying these foreign wives when he was young; presumably he reasoned that they could never turn away his  heart because he was the Son of David, the Messianic King. In Prov. 6:27 he soberly warns against the strange (i.e. Gentile) woman, observing that a man cannot take this kind of fire into his bosom and not be burned by it. Yet this is exactly what he was doing at the time he wrote that. His public removal of his Egyptian wife from the house of David " because the places are holy" (2 Chron. 8:11) is therefore to be seen as spiritual pride, appearing to do the right thing, when his heart was far from it.

(4) And note, too, how God said that He accepted the temple not so much as a place to dwell in (as Solomon assumed it was) but as a place facilitating sacrifice, prayer etc., for the glorification of His Name through these things; He emphasised that He dwelt amongst His people (1 Kings 6:13; 2 Chron. 7:12-16). There are several other places where God’s response to Solomon’s words seems to be corrective rather than affirmatory. Thus Solomon says that God will hear the prayers of His people because the temple is called by God’s Name; but God’s response is that “my people, which are called by my name” would pray to Him themselves and be heard, quite apart from the temple (2 Chron. 6:33 cp. 7:14). He sees them as bearing His Name rather than the temple building, as Solomon perceived it. God goes on to parallel the temple and His people in 2 Chron. 7:21,22, saying that if He punishes the temple He will punish the people. Solomon seems to have thought that the temple would still stand favourably in God’s eyes even if the people were punished. The record records that the temple was “perfected” whereas Solomon’s heart wasn’t perfect [s.w.] (1 Kings 11:4 cp. 2 Chron. 8:16).