12 Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. 13 I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” 14 Then the king turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 15 And he said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, 16 ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ 17 Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 18 But the Lord said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. 19 Nevertheless, you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 20 Now the Lord has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and I have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 And there I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.” – 1 Kings 8:12-21 ESV
Having completed construction of the temple and safely secured the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of Holies, Solomon was ready to formally dedicate the new structure. This was a momentous occasion for the entire nation of Israel and a great number of them had assembled to witness the official arrival of the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence, power, and mercy. These people also had a vested interest in the new temple, having witnessed and participated in its construction for more than seven years. By the order of Solomon, tens of thousands of Israelites had been conscripted to serve as laborers, carpenters, masons, cooks, and foremen on this massive project. David had come up with the idea of building a house for God and Solomon had made it a reality, but the people had supplied the blood, sweat, and tears. It had become a community project for which they took great pride.
Standing before the temple, with the citizens of Israel spread out behind him, Solomon summarized the fruit of their labor.
“O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!” – 1 Kings 8:12-13 NLT
Speaking directly to Yahweh, Solomon affirmed the Lord’s holy and transcendent nature. He paraphrased the words that God had spoken to Moses on Mount Sinai after He had delivered the people of Israel from their captivity in Egypt.
And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” – Exodus 19:9 NLT
Moses was told to assemble the people of Israel and prepare them for an encounter with God. And three days later, they gathered at the base of Mount Sinai.
On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. – Exodus 19:16-18 ESV
God made Himself visible to the people of Israel. He manifested His presence in the form of a thick, dark cloud that resembled smoke belching from a kiln. And this tangible representation of the Almighty was accompanied by a frightening pyrotechnic show that further enhanced His greatness and instilled fear in the people.
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. – Exodus 20:18-21 ESV
Forty years later, on the banks of the Jordan River, Moses addressed a new generation of Israelites who were preparing to enter the land of Canaan. And he reminded them of that fateful day when God had appeared to their fathers and mothers at Mount Sinai.
“You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while flames from the mountain shot into the sky. The mountain was shrouded in black clouds and deep darkness. And the Lord spoke to you from the heart of the fire. You heard the sound of his words but didn’t see his form; there was only a voice.” – Deuteronomy 4:11-12 NLT
God had chosen to reveal Himself to His people. Ever since the day they had left Egypt, He had traveled before them in the form of a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day (Exodus 40:34-38). And when God had given Moses instructions to build the tabernacle, He had also promised to make His presence known by appearing in the form of a cloud over the mercy seat, which sat on top of the Ark, located within the Holy of Holies.
“Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.” – Leviticus 16:2 ESV
With the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant into the newly constructed temple, Solomon was welcoming God into His new home. It was “a glorious Temple” (1 Kings 8:13 NLT), where God would be able to dwell on a permanent basis. This was no tent, designed to be erected and taken down, then transported from one place to another. It was a massive stone structure built to last forever, providing Yahweh with an everlasting dwelling place on earth. And Solomon rejoiced over having been able to play a part in this great endeavor.
“I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.” – 1 Kings 8:13 ESV
This was not an expression of pride or arrogance on Solomon’s part. He was simply expressing his amazement at having been used by God to make his father’s dream a reality. Turning and addressing the people, Solomon gave them a brief history lesson, outlining the events that had led up to this great day.
While David had been the one to come up with the idea of building a permanent house for God, he would not be given the privilege to do so. Instead, God would build David’s kingdom, using David’s military prowess to ensure that the nation of Israel had secured all the land that God had promised as their inheritance. And David had proved successful. He fought many battles, conquering the enemies of Israel and establishing the nation as a formidable force in the region. But it was because of David’s bloody conquests that he would be denied the privilege of building a house for God.
“You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honor my name. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign.” – 1 Chronicles 22:8-9 NLT
And Solomon reminds the people that, while David’s intentions had been admirable, God had declared that the honor of building the temple would fall to his son. Solomon had been divinely ordained to carry out the wishes of his father.
“You wanted to build the Temple to honor my name. Your intention is good, but you are not the one to do it. One of your own sons will build the Temple to honor me.” – 1 Kings 8:18-19 NLT
Solomon wanted the people to understand that the temple was not to be a monument to his own greatness. It had been built to honor the name of God. It existed for His glory alone. Solomon realized that he sat on the throne of Israel solely at God’s discretion.
“…now the Lord has fulfilled the promise he made, for I have become king in my father’s place, and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised.” – 1 Kings 8:20 NLT
And Solomon makes it clear that his ascendancy to the throne had been ordained and orchestrated by God so that he might build a house for God.
“I have built this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.” – 1 Kings 8:20 NLT
He had successfully completed the task assigned to him by God. His nearly eight-year-long commitment to this project had come to an end and now he could rest in the knowledge that the Lord had taken up residence in His new home, assuring Israel of His permanent presence in their midst.
Yet, as will be revealed in Solomon’s prayer of dedication, he knew that God would not actually dwell in the temple. Yahweh was too great to be confined to a building built by human hands. But Solomon understood that the temple, in all its glory, would be a constant reminder to the people of Israel of both the greatness and the nearness of God. He would go on to ask the God who dwells in heaven to honor His temple on earth by hearing and answering the prayers offered up in its courts.
“May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there.’ May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.” – 1 Kings 8:29-30 NLT
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