Sermon preached on 1 Kings 7:1-12 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 8/25/2019 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Kings 7:1-12
And He Finished His Entire House
We’ve been studying the grandeur of Solomon building the temple in Jerusalem. We’ve noted the wisdom God gave for him to accomplish that. In fact, we are not done studying about the building of the temple. Next time, we’ll continue that as we look at the furnishings for the temple. Well, today is an interlude of sorts. Yet, it is of a similar theme of building projects. Having talked of the main building project of the temple, we learn now about Solomon building his own palace. This too was significant and important for the kingdom and God deemed it worthy to be captured for posterity in Holy Scripture.
Let’s begin then today by observing the details of his palace constructions. I’ll begin with a few initial comments. First, the reference in verse 1 to Solomon’s own house appears to refer to all five of these structures described here. Together, they seem to describe one big palace complex that while here the structures get described individually, elsewhere including in verse 1 are summarized as Solomon’s house or palace. Second, this is a really hard passage to understand in terms of a number of the details for the construction. Part of that is because the account is very brief. Part of that is because some of the building and measurement terms in this ancient Hebrew are obscure to us at this point in history. So, I will do my best to explain what we do understand from this passage. A third initial comment: there are three main structures described here: the House of the Forest of Lebanon, the Hall of Pillars, and the Hall of the Throne also known as the Hall of Judgment. These parts of Solomon’s palace appear to be more state buildings used for various governmental functions. This palace was the seat of government for Israel, and so these buildings seem to facilitate the functioning of his government. This is in contrast to the other two houses briefly mentioned in verse 8, which seem to refer to the actual places of residence for both Solomon and his Egyptian wife. So then, the bulk of the description here is not so much about Solomon’s personal place of residence but about these more public buildings in his overall palace complex. A fourth initial comment: all these various buildings are generally understood to be in close proximity to the temple, at just a slightly lower elevation than the temple complex which would have stood at the highest spot on Mount Zion. But based on the data it is hard to be dogmatic about the exact location.
So then, consider first this House of the Forest of Lebanon. Though we are not told why it was named this, it’s generally concluded that it was due to its extensive use of cedar pillars. Its four rows of pillars made it look like it was a forest of the cedars of Lebanon. Notice the size of this building. It was big, much larger than the temple, by comparison. To be 100 cubits long is probably about 150 feet long. Think of like half the length of a football field. And then it is 50 cubits wide – probably about 75 feet wide – maybe half the width of football field. Of all the buildings that we are told the size of, for either the temple or the palace, this one was the biggest. Additionally, it likely had side-chambers on three sides of it, like the main building of the temple had, which is dependent on how verse 3 should be translated. Verse 3 has been a struggle to translate, but I believe what it likely is describing is that there were covered side-chambers along three sides of the house. That’s based in part of that the word translated as “chamber” in the ESV and “beam” in the NKJV is literally the word for “rib” in the Hebrew and it’s the same word used last chapter to describe the side chambers along the main temple building. If that translation is correct, then verse 3 might be describing 45 side-chambers, 15 in a row, possibly meaning 3 stories of side chambers, 15 in each story. But again, it’s hard to be dogmatic about the translation of verse 3 at this point. Likewise, it’s hard to be dogmatic about the precise meaning of the windows referenced in verses 4-5 except to say that there is also a window reference in the construction of the main temple house last chapter, so there is more similarity there between this House of the Forest of Lebanon and the main temple house.
As for the purpose of the House of the Forest of Lebanon, we are not told that here. However, later in 10:17 we see Solomon place 300 gold shields inside. And later in Isaiah 22:8 we see a reference that weapons for war were stored in there. So, whatever else may have been the use of this building, it seems at least to be an armory. It’s been suggested that it may have housed or staged military troops as well. Either way, this building would have represented the military function of the king – which of course was a major part of the job description for a king.
Consider next this Hall of Pillars mentioned in verse 6. The word hall can also be translated as porch or vestibule. The width matches that of House of the Forest of Lebanon. Consequently, it’s thought it might have served as a marvelous entryway into that house. Others have wondered if it rather served as the porch to the Hall of the Throne which is mentioned next. It’s possible it served for both, one on either side. Again, we are not told of its use. It’s likely more of a grand hallway than necessarily serving much purpose of business. But we would note that it is again a feature similar to the temple complex. The main house of the temple also had a porch in front of it.
Consider then next this Hall of the Throne mentioned in verse 7. It is said to also be call the Hall of Judgment. No size descriptions are given here. We will learn more about its impressive, glorious throne in chapter 10. We can again recognize some analogy here with the temple complex, where it had the Most Holy Place, where the ark of the covenant was, the place where God sat among the people. Likewise, the palace complex has this place of the throne where the king sits among the people. And so, what I think is most important to recognize here is that this is where the king would sit in his official rule and governance. Here is where he would issue his decrees. And particularly, as it points out, this is where he would pronounce his judgments. Think of, for example, what we saw earlier in chapter 3 where he gave that famous verdict between the two harlots about whose son was alive and whose had died. Those kinds of judgments would have taken place in this hall. So then, while the House of the Forest of Lebanon reminded us of the military function of the king, this Hall remind us especially of the judicial and legislative and executive aspects of the king. From this throne, especially, the people of Israel could seek justice and help from the king.
So then, in comparison, so little is mentioned about the last two houses here, the residence of the king, and the residence for his Egyptian bride. We are told that these were of like workmanship, probably a reference to their similar style of construction than the size. With so little said of these houses, I don’t have much to comment on them. However, let me say that is a comforting thought to think that this palace complex contains both the home and workplace, so to speak, for the king. He lives where he works, essentially. Solomon’s palace complex would hold both his throne and his bed. The king would not be distant and aloof but there and present. The city of Jerusalem would be not only the place where God put his name as reflected in the temple. It would also be where the God’s anointed King would put his name and call home.
One last note of observation about Solomon’s palace complex before we turn to do some assessment. It was one of grandeur and magnificence with its use of stone and cedar. The verses we’ve looked at so far repeatedly mention the extensive use of cedar. This would have been very high-end construction material and there is so much of it used here. Similarly, verses 9-12 emphasize the use of large costly stones in its foundation stones and its walls is described. These were in some way polished on both sides. The text repeatedly uses the word “costly” to describe these stones. And with the reference to “the great court” in verse 12 we realize that they would have had to use a lot of these expensive stones. We further recognize the magnificence when the end of verse 12 compares the use of this stone in the great court with what was used with the temple’s inner court and porch. In other words, the same sort of stone was used. This again makes a comparison with Solomon’s palace with the temple. Though, on this point, we might also note that something lacking in the palace’s description is the use of gold. Whereas the temple used so much gold in addition to magnificent stones and cedar, here there is no reference to gold at all in the construction of the palace buildings. So, there is similarity with the temple but difference. Nonetheless, the point remains to notice the grandeur of the construction of Solomon’s palace.
So then, so far today we’ve observed and consider the various details of Solomon’s palace. What I’d like to turn now to do is some assessment. What are we to make of such construction work? How should we think of such a glorious palace for Solomon? I ask this question in part because I’ve encountered quite a bit of negative commentary on Solomon’s work here. Some have accused Solomon of extravagance and overindulgence with his palace. Some have accused him of putting greater priority to his own palace than the house of the LORD. While the text might arguably be compatible with such claims if they were brought out elsewhere, I don’t see this passage making that point. You would have to eisegete that – put that into the text. The text primarily reports Solomon’s building efforts here – it doesn’t say or even suggest anything negative about it. If anything, the text hints at praising Solomon for his magnificence of building.
And so, I think we should read this in a positive light. Think about so many of the details here that support a positive reading. For example, people who would criticize Solomon here, often start at verse 1 in regards to the length of time it took him to build his palace versus the temple. Yes, it’s a fact that it took 7 years for the temple but 13 years for his palace. The text just reports that, it doesn’t say anything wrong about that fact. But think about what we can clearly say about such. First off, he prioritized building the temple. He built the temple first and then started on his house – that’s clear from 1 Kings 9:10 – that it took a total of 20 years from start to finish for both houses. Remember the opposite would happen later in Israel’s history. After Solomon’s temple is later destroyed, when the people return back from exile, the book of Haggai condemns them for building fancy houses for themselves first while the temple remained in ruins. But Solomon gets the order right here. And the fact that it too less time for Solomon to build the temple doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t put much value into it. Remember, the planning for the temple construction had been going on for years – David began it and even started to amass the resources needed for it. Not only that, but the simple practical reality is that the temple only needed to be so big. Clearly the palace was much bigger, and this very well may have reflected the practical needs of the government, as we see the bulk of the description here regarding these state buildings. So then, I think it would be unfair to criticize Solomon due to the comparative time references here.
With regard to the criticism of Solomon engaging in extravagance and overindulgence with his palace, let me say this. Some have explained this criticism like this. They’ve said his work on the temple is described in Scripture as a fruit of his wisdom, whereas his palace is a fruit of his riches and honor. Yet, even if that was true, remember where did he get all those things from? It was God who asked Solomon to name a gift to be given. It was Solomon who asked for wisdom and God was so pleased that he said he would give him not only wisdom but also riches and honor. So then, if the city of the great king shows forth not only the wisdom from God but also the riches and honor that also came from God, should Solomon be faulted? Yes, Solomon could falter in this regard. He could struggle with a love of riches and that would be wrong. He could fall in love with such wealth and honor and that would be wrong. But having wealth and honor alone is not wrong. At this point in the text, it doesn’t fault him for such, and we should be careful not to do so either. Let us not go beyond what is written. Let us instead see such a majestic palace for God’s anointed king in Jerusalem and praise the LORD God for such a brilliant display of divine blessings.
Let’s continue to think along these lines. We’ve been noting today how Solomon’s palace has several echoes of the temple construction, while clearly not upstaging it. Isn’t that fitting for a king who has been installed by God? Isn’t that fitting that such a king of the LORD would want to look like the LORD? Isn’t that at the heart of the image of God? Isn’t that what we see in several places of Scripture, a close connection between the LORD God and the Lord’s Anointed One? If Solomon should build a palace next to his heavenly father’s house, shouldn’t he want to mimic his father’s house? Like father like son? Wouldn’t such greater glory to lesser glory be fitting when looking at such a God-given city? That at the top is the most grand temple and right underneath it and next to it is a grand and glorious palace for his Christ?
I mean just think of what this great palace represented among the people? Think of the value it was to the people. God with his Anointed King at his right hand dwells in Zion with his people. There in the House of the Forest of Lebanon you have a representation of the military might of the great King. There in the Hall of Judgment God would execute justice among the people though his Christ King. Think about it, how few of Israel would be ever able to see much of the inner rooms of the temple? But God gave the Davidic Throne in the midst of the people from which the people could draw near to seek justice and help and mercy.
As I continue to drive home the point that we should be seeing this amazing palace as a good thing, I point to you that elsewhere in Scripture, this is also what we find. Psalm 48 is a great example. It considers this city of Jerusalem on the holy Mount Zion and offers praise upon praise to God. It mentions various praiseworthy aspects of the city, such as the temple. But it describes various other praiseworthy aspects of it, including its palaces. Psalm 48:3 says that God is in Jerusalem’s palaces. The next verse then develops that thought by saying that the kings of the earth will assemble at Jerusalem and marvel at it.
In fact, that’s what we find in the Biblical records concerning Solomon and his building of not only the temple but also his palace. Like in 2 Chronicles 2:12, Hiram king of Tyre says this, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, who has discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.” Likewise, when the Queen of Sheba would later visit Solomon in 1 Kings 10 and behold everything he built, especially the temple and his palace, it says that it took her breath away (10:4). She then too says “Blessed be the LORD your God”. So, as Psalm 48 rightly acknowledged, the glory of Jerusalem was to the testimony of God. As so common under the old covenant, there were outward and external signs of glory and prosperity given to the God’s people as they were faithful to the covenant. So then, what Solomon built here was from the LORD. It was divine blessing that gave him not only the wisdom but the riches and honor to build such a palace. It literally elicited praise from the kings of the world – not praise for Solomon but praise for the LORD God! Psalm 48 says it should also elicit the praise of God’s people.
So then, I will find no fault in Solomon’s building project here of his palace. I will recognize it for what Psalm 48 says of it – the blessed glory of the Lord among his people who loved his people so much to give them such a king to administer justice and righteousness among them. What high blessing when the people have a king who will pronounce justice for them. This palace complex reflects the glory of the LORD among the people in and through their Christ.
So then, in terms of application to us. That city with both its temple and palace was later destroyed because of the people’s sin. Their kings failed to lead them in the sort of justice required by God. But God in his rich mercy sent his final and ultimate anointed one. King Jesus, the Christ, is the perfect and everlasting king. Of his glorious throne there shall be no end, and it will indeed be glorious. All the kings of the earth and all the nations of the world will bow before him and declare his lordship. And for us who are his servants and subjects by grace, we will be blessed amazingly. And we will dwell with him in his glory forever. So then, our application today calls us to behold and receive King Jesus in faith, that at the day of his coming, you will not be found under his judgment. Instead, receive his grace and mercy that he holds out even now because of his sacrifice on the cross for sin.
If you do put your trust in this great King Jesus, know that as certainly as Solomon made a house for his bride, that Jesus too has gone to prepare a place for us. The church is called the bride of Christ, and he has told us that he has gone to prepare a place for us in his Father’s house. We won’t have to just live next door in a house that’s kind of like the Father’s house. Jesus says he has a room in his Father’s house for us! And so even now Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us that when he comes again he will take us to where he is. So, we will always be with the Lord. And so with King Jesus, we will dwell together forever in the heavenly city of our great God with our great God!
As much as we rightly look ahead to that future glory of to come, don’t make the mistake to only see this is as something for the future. For right now King Jesus dwells in power on high in the Heavenly Mount Zion. Even now he is seated at the right hand of God in power. Even now he issues his judgments and decrees from his throne on high for the good of us his people. Even now he working righteousness among us his people. And whether they realize it yet or not, this is something for the world to marvel at if they will embrace the Christ. And it is something for them to fear about if they refuse to bow their knee to Jesus.
Let us then behold in faith the palaces and mansions which are ours in Christ Jesus. Let us live as ambassadors of such a kingdom and such a seat of government here and now. May even our church government look to serve in light of this heavenly seat of government – that the elders would only ministerially declare the words of Christ in its judgments – and not invent its own judgments. That the elders would do this in service to King Jesus who is enthroned on high. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.