It is my belief that the most impressive building that has ever been built was King Solomon's Temple. It probably wasn't the most expensive building ever built. It certainly was not the largest building ever built. And it really was not the most creative building ever built. Yet I still think it is the most impressive building because of its purpose. It was a building that was to house the only true God of the universe! It doesn't get any more important than that.
In First Kings 5-6, we are told of the building project by King Solomon. It can be a difficult section of Scripture to fully grasp. But there are some very important things that can be learned from these couple of chapters.
Chapter five describes the interaction between Solomon and Hiram, the King of Tyre. Hiram was friendly to David, Solomon's father, and so he obviously wanted to keep those peaceful relationships with Solomon as well. In the course of time, Solomon wanted to build the house for the Lord and needed some good wood to build it. He suggested a deal with Hiram. Solomon asked for some cedar wood from Lebanon and Hiram agreed to sell them to him for the cost of food for his family. (Read my notes to see how I deal with the reality of forced labor by Solomon in 5:13-18, something almost no commentator deals with in their books).
While chapter five mostly deals with preparation, chapter six deals with the actual building. There is so much detail in this chapter that time and space in this blog post will not do it justice. The actual temple portion was about 90 feet long by 30 feet wide by 45 feet tall. There was a front porch on the temple that was 15 feet deep and 30 feet long. It was not a very large building by our standards today. But it was probably one of the largest buildings of its day (probably only surpassed by the King's palace or compound).
One of the most interesting thoughts about the building process is that it is described as being built in place without hammers, axes, or tools of iron (6:7). That means there was no tool making noise in the actual building. That's incredible.
Another thing that interested me is to think that most of the people that read or heard this account read to them, never had an opportunity to enter the temple. I think that is why vs. 14-38, which describes the inside of the temple, is in much more detail than vs. 1-10, which describes the outside. The temple was not for the average Jewish person. It was for the priests and then the most holy place only once a year for the high priest. Can you imagine building a building, a national event, and then never being able to see the inside of it?
One more thing that interested me is the amount of gold that was used inside the temple. All of the wood that covered the inside of the temple was then covered in gold. Second Chronicles 3:8 says that there was 600 talents of gold used in the building of the temple. That is equivalent to 45,000 pounds of gold. I am not a jeweler, but that is a lot of gold.
What do we take from this? I think the greatest takeaway is found in the middle of chapter six. Between the description of the outside and inside of the temple, we see God coming to Solomon once again and telling him that if he would obey God, then all of Israel would be blessed. It can be very easy to see this as only a building project, but I think this section is in the middle of the passage to remind Solomon and us that its not just about what we do externally for God, it is about the heart in the process. God cares about the inside of us; our motives, our attitudes.
Israel's greatest need was Solomon's personal holiness. I was reminded of Robert Murray M'Cheyene, who was a pastor in Scotland in the middle 1800s, when he said, "My people's greatest need is my personal holiness." We know the end of the story. Solomon blew it all. He couldn't obey God. In fact, every week in this study it seems as though we keep coming back to the wisest man who ever lived continually points out to us that men can't be good enough for God. But Jesus did. Jesus is. In all the failures of Solomon, I see a glimpse of the brilliance of Jesus.