1 Kings 6


Solomon Builds the Temple

      • In the 480th year after the Israelites left Egypt, in the 4th year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, during the month of Ziv (which is the second month), Solomon began to build the house for Yahweh. The house that King Solomon built for Yahweh was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high. The porch in front of the main hall of the house was 30 feet long, corresponding to the width of the house, and it extended 15 feet deep in front of the house. He made windows with recessed frames for the house. He also built an extension all around the outer walls of the house’s main hall and Holy Place, and constructed side rooms in it. This extension was three stories high, the bottom floor being 7 ½ feet wide, the middle being 9 feet wide, and the third being 10 ½ feet wide. He built offset ledges on the outer walls of the house so that support beams would not have to be inserted into the walls. The stones used in the construction of the house were finished at the quarry so that no sound of hammer, pickax, or any iron tool was heard in the house while it was being built. The entrance to the bottom story of side rooms was on the south side of the house, and a stairway led up to the middle story, then another stairway led to the third story. When he finished building the house, Solomon put in a ceiling made of cedar beams and planks. The extension of side rooms that he built along all the outside walls of the house was attached to the house with cedar beams, and each story was 7 ½ feet high.

        • This passage is a key support for the traditional (early) dating of the Exodus. As NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, “Solomon’s fourth year was about 967 BC. Treating the number 480 as representing calendar years yields a date of about 1446 BC for Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.”

          • We do have archaeological evidence to support the traditional dating. As the same source points out, “Archaeologists have discovered the Amarna letters, a cache of letters from Canaanite city chieftans asking Pharaoh Akhenaten (about 1352-1336 B) to help them fight against a certain rabble who were attacking them. This is a possible reference to the Israelites…Additionally, in about 1100 BC Jephthah described Israel as having inhabited the Promised Land for 300 years (see Judg 11:26; cp Num 21:21-35). The early date seems to fit best with the Bible’s own chronological information…”

        • In its section on dating the Exodus, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (by Josh and Sean McDowell p. 475)) also include the Merneptah Stele, “An archaeological find supporting an early date is the Merneptah Stele, discovered in 1896 by Flinders Petrie. The monument details victories of the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah over forces in Libya and Canaan and includes the phrase, ‘Israel is laid waste.’ The Merneptah Stele is dated approximately 1210 BC.”

        • The parallel passage (2 Ch 3:2) does not include the name of the month, just the month’s number. The name Ziv has been identified as Canaanite, and only appears in connection with Solomon’s building of the temple.” (HCSB)

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Like the Tabernacle before it, the Temple (literally house) was the place where God met with his people. David had stored up materials to be used in its construction (1 Chr 22:2-4, 14) and had drawn up plans for the Temple and given them to Solomon (1 Chr 28:11-12). The Temple’s floor plan resembled that of the Tabernacle but doubled its length and width and increased its height (cp Exod 26:3, 15-30; 36:26-34)…Unlike the Tabernacle, the Temple had an east entry room (or porch) and two freestanding pillars before the entrance (7:15-22).”

        • ESV Archaeological Study Bible notes, “There are no architectural remains of Solomon’s temple, and passages describing its construction in 1 Kings 6-7 and 2 Chronicles 2-4 are difficult to interpret. However, the remains of a Neo-Hittite temple in Ain Dara, Syria, built around 1300 BC and in use until 740 BC, have shed significant light on the structure of the Jerusalem temple. Like Solomon’s temple, the Neo-Hittite temple was built on a large artificial platform at the highest point in the city. Although large than Solomon’s temple, the Ain Dara temple exhibits a similar tripartate layout, with a covered entrance supported by two columns, a main hall or sanctuary, and a most holy place at the far end. Both temples were surrounded on three sides by multistoried rooms for storage and other functions. The interior and exterior walls at Ain Dara are adorned with lions, winged sphinxes (similar to the biblical cherubim), floral imagery, and geometric patterns, similar to the description of the Solomonic temple interior in 1 Kings 6:29, 32, 35. The Ain Dara temple was also decorated with faux, lattice-covered windows, suggesting that the ‘windows with recessed frames’ (6:4) may refer to similar faux windows serving a decorative purpose. The remains of the Neo-Hittite temple at Ain Dara help to explain the textual obscurities in the biblical description of the Solomonic temple, and also demonstrate the historical veracity of the biblical tradition. First Kings 6 describes a temple that fits comfortably within Syrian and Phoenician temple building traditions of the tenth to eighth centuries BC.”

The sanctuary of Ain Dara as seen from the southeast. Photo via livius.org

        • It should be noted that there is good reason for why remains of Solomon’s temple have not been discovered. In Evidence That Demands a Verdict, the McDowell’s cite archaeologist Amihai Mazar, “The temple and palace that Solomon supposedly built should be found, if anywhere, below the present Temple Mount, where no excavations are possible…” As the McDowell’s point out, “As with all critical assessments, we cannot require more evidence than can reasonably be found.”

      • Then the word of Yahweh came to Solomon saying, “Regarding this house you’re building- if you will walk in My statutes, obey My rules, keep My commandments and walk in them, then I will fulfill through you the promise I made to your father David. I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon My people, Israel.”

        • ESV Study Bible says, “The temple is placed firmly in its proper theological context. God will certainly dwell among the people once the temple is built (v. 13), but his ‘dwelling’ will be on the same basis as before: the people’s obedience to the law (cf Lev 26:11-12). The temple itself, for all its splendor, does not change anything about the nature of the divine- human relationship. This was something that the Israelites were apt to forget after the temple had been built and become a centrally important aspect of national life (cf Jer 7:1-34). God is not as impressed with structures as he is with obedience, a point made later by Stephen in his speech to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7; and the beauty of temples is never any guarantee that God will not leave them or bring judgment on them (cf Luke 21:5-6).”

      • NET Bible’s text critical notes point out that, “The LXX lacks vv. 11-14.” That includes the passage above in addition to the first sentence of the passage below.

      • So Solomon finished building the house. The entire inside, from floor to ceiling, was paneled with wood. He paneled the walls and ceilings with cedar planks and the floors were covered with cypress planks. He built a wall 30 feet from the rear of the house as a partition for the inner sanctuary that would be the Most Holy Place, and he paneled it with cedar planks from floor to ceiling. The main hall, in front of the inner sanctuary, was 60 feet long. The cedar inside the house was decorated with carvings of gourds and flower blossoms. Everything was cedar- no stones were visible.

      • He prepared the inner sanctuary, at the far end of the house, so that the ark of the covenant of Yahweh could be placed there. The inner sanctuary was 30 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 30 feet high and entirely overlaid with pure gold. He also overlaid the cedar altar. Then Solomon overlaid the rest of the house with pure gold. He hung gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary and overlaid it with gold. He plated the entire inside of the house with gold, as well as the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “This was the Most Holy Place, the holiest place in the temple, where the ark was located…”

        • HCSB points out, “The phrase ‘overlaid it with gold’ probably refers to the outside front of the inner sanctuary.”

      • He made two cherubim out of olive wood, each standing 15 feet tall, for the inner sanctuary. The wingspan of each cherub was 15 feet, each wing was 7 ½ feet long. The two cherubim were identical in size and shape, each standing 15 feet tall. He placed the cherubim side by side in the inner sanctuary. Their wings were outspread so that the wing of one cherub touched one wall and the wing of the other cherub touched the opposite wall. Their inner wings met, touching in the middle of the room. The cherubim were also overlaid with gold.

        • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers makes the following comments on the appearance of these cherubim, “These were copied from the Tabernacle, but apparently with some differences, over and above the necessary increase of size, and the change of material from solid gold to olive-wood overlaid with gold. In Exodus 25:18-20; Exodus 37:7-9, they are described as having their faces towards the mercy-seat, and covering the mercy-seat with their wings. Here, from the careful description of the outstretched wings, of ten cubits in width for each cherub, meeting in the midst of the house and touching the walls, it would seem that they must have been turned so as to face the entrance. The cherubim over the ark are described only in three places in the Old Testament—in the passages in Exodus, here, and in the parallel 2Chronicles 3:10-13, and in those great visions of the priestly prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:4-25; Ezekiel 10:1-22) which have determined the imagery of the Apocalypse. In no case is their form distinctly mentioned, unless, by comparison of Ezekiel 10:14-15 with Ezekiel 1:10, it may be inferred to have been the form of a winged bull; whence would be naturally derived the golden calves of the idolatry introduced into Israel in the time of Jeroboam. Josephus, indeed, in his description of the Temple (Antt. viii. c. 3, § 3), expressly says that ‘no one can tell, or even conjecture, of what shape the cherubim were.’ The tradition, therefore, must have been lost in the Second Temple, where there was no ark; and this is the more strange, because in Exodus 26:1 the cherubim are said to have been represented in the embroidery of the curtains, and here (in 1Kings 6:32; 1Kings 6:35) to have been similarly carved on the walls.”

      • On all the walls around the house, the inner and outer sanctuaries, he engraved cherubim, palm trees, and flowers in bloom. He overlaid the floor of the entire house, both inner and outer sanctuaries, with gold. He made doors out of olive wood with five-sided door posts for the entrance to the inner sanctuary. On these two olive wood doors he carved cherubim, palm trees, and flowers in bloom. He overlaid the doors with gold and overlaid the cherubim and palm tree carvings with hammered gold. He made door frames out of olive wood for the entrance to the main main hall in the same way, except that they were four-sided. The two doors were made of cypress wood and each door had two folding leaves. He carved cherubim, palm trees, and flowers in bloom on them and overlaid them with gold evenly applied over the carving. He built the inner courtyard with three rows of chiseled stone and one row of cedar beams.

        • This passage contains some obscure Hebrew, so there is some variation among translations. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible offers some clarifications:

          • On the doors, “The Hebrew words used here are usually translated as ‘five sided doorframes/door jambs.’ The temples at Ur and Tell Tayinat allow for a better interpretation. In those temples, the main door frame is ‘rabbeted,’ possessing stepped indents on three sides. Most commonly the doorframes have four indented steps, but in some cases, as at the Ningal temple at Ur, they have five. This was also the case with Solomon’s temple.”

        • On the three rows of stone and one row of cedar beams, “A comparable inner courtyard was unearthed in the lower city of Hazor. The walls were made with a layer of cedar planking interspersed between every three layers (courses) of stone…”

      • The foundation for the house of Yahweh was laid in the month of Ziv, in the 4th year of Solomon’s reign. The house was completed in all its details according to its specifications in the month of Bul (the eighth month), in the 11th year of his reign. So it took him 7 years to build it.

        • HCSB notes, “’Ziv’ is the Canaanite name for the second month of the year (April/May)…”Bul’ is the Canaanite name for the eighth month of the year (October/November).”

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