In chapters 6-8, the author reports the building of the temple that would become the permanent “home” of God among the Israelites. Verses 1-10, in chapter 6, tell us that temple construction began in 966 BC, Solomon’s fourth year as king. The project was completed and the temple dedicated 7 ½ years later. This structure would stand for almost four hundred years until it is destroyed by the Babylonians.
What did the temple look like? Paul R. House, in 1, 2 Kings, The New American Commentary, summarizes:
First, the temple was about ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high. By modern standards it was a fairly small worship center [with 2700 square feet of floor space]. Second, it had a portico, or porch (6:3), which ran ‘the width of the temple’ and projected out ‘from the front of the temple’ (6:3). Third, it was a three-story complex (6:6). Fourth, its various portions were carefully shaped at their quarries, then fitted, without hammering, on site (6:7). Fifth, its frame and beams were cedar (6:9). Sixth, the facility included a number of ‘side rooms’ (6:10) that probably were set aside for the priests’ use. In other words, the building was attractive, yet functional.
The rest of chapters 6 and 7 describe the interior of the temple and the bronze furnishings crafted by Huram of Tyre. We also learn in chapter 7 that Solomon built an entire palace complex after completion of the temple. His palace complex would take 13 years to finish, almost twice as long as the temple.
Once the temple construction finishes, it is time to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) inside the temple. Recall that the Ark has been residing in a specially constructed tent inside the City of David. Solomon has built the temple and his palace just outside the City of David, thus expanding the footprint of the city of Jerusalem, which includes all of it.
Solomon invites all the elders of Israel to witness the carrying of the Ark to the newly completed temple. The movement of the Ark and the subsequent dedication of the temple all take place during the Festival of Booths. Solomon extends the Festival from seven days to fourteen days to celebrate the dedication of the temple.
Once the priests finished placing the Ark in the Most Holy Place, a cloud (the glory of God) filled the temple, thus indicating that God has taken up residence among Israel.
Solomon then speaks to all the leadership of Israel about the meaning of this day. First, Solomon reminds them that God has kept the promise He made to David – that David’s son would build a temple for God. Second, God promised David that Solomon would sit on the throne of Israel, and that has also occurred. Third, Solomon has built a permanent structure for the Ark of the Covenant which contains the two stone tablets that Moses placed in the Ark almost 500 years prior.
Later in chapter 8, Solomon also reflects on God’s fulfillment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. God promised the patriarchs that their descendants would have the land of Canaan – that was complete. God promised Moses that Israel would have a central place of worship – check. God promised that Israel would live in peace with her neighbors – and during Solomon’s reign that was the case. Solomon also prays that God will fulfill His promise of blessing all the nations of the world through Israel and her temple.
The dedication of the temple in 959 BC is regarded by most scholars as the pinnacle of Israel’s success as a nation. She was powerful, wealthy, and at peace. But before we get carried away, we must remember that God repeatedly warns Solomon, as He reminded David, that Israel’s blessings are contingent on Solomon’s obedience to the Torah. Although Solomon was seemingly off to a good start, it wouldn’t be long before Solomon’s disobedience would cost Israel dearly.
For an illustration of what Solomon’s temple may have looked like, click on this link.
To see the geographical boundaries of Israel under Solomon’s rule, click on this link.