Friday, March 29, 2013

CXXXI - Kings of Israel and Judah

Firstly, allow me to apologize for the appearance of the listing in this post below.  I realize it looks like a 10 year old kid did it.  After numerous attempts to format the listing below, I had to settle for the way it is now in order to preserve my sanity.  (One cannot post directly onto the page as you currently see it.  It must be transposed from a different page.  The two refuse to align themselves.)

As I have mentioned before, dates in Old Testament times were not documented using a standard starting point as we do today.  To date times of events today, we use the number of years AD, which stands for Ano Domini.  Ano Domini is Latin for "Year of our Lord", signifying the number of years since the birth of Christ.  Anything happening prior to that, we denote as BC, which stands for "Before Christ".  However, the Hebrews had never established a starting point.  Instead, they would pinpoint the year of the reigning king.  We will see this used numerous times in the remaining books of the Old Testament.  An example of this would be:  (I Kings 13:9) In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah ......  This system seems weak compared to a starting point, but it worked well for them because the were accustomed to it.

We will see in the next chapter of I Kings that Israel will be divided into two nations, both of which will have kings.  For the remainder of our study of Kings and Chronicles, we be studying the events of both nations and their respective kings.  This can be somewhat confusing, and as confusion gets a foothold, one can become discouraged.  Therefore, in an attempt to keep confusion at a minimum, I have constructed (as a visual aide) a listing of the kings of both Judah and Israel, along with the prophets of their particular eras.  It will be number CXXXI.  I hope it helps.


                       Kings of Israel and Judah

                                      Saul           1050-1010 BC
                                      David         1010 - 970
                                      Solomon      970 - 930

           Judah (and Benjamin)                  Israel (Ten Northern Tribes)

   King        Dates of Reign    Prophets                 King        Dates of Reign   Prophets

Rehoboam         931-913          Shemaiah             Jeroboam I       931-910          Abijah
Abijah                913-911                                       Nadab              910-909   
Asa                     911-870                                      Baasha              909-886
                                                                               Elah                  886-885
                                                                               Zimri                885 (7 days)       
                                                                               Omri                 885-874        Elijah
Jehoshaphat      870-848                                        Ahab                 874-853           &
Jehoram            848-841                                        Ahaziah            853-852       Micaiah
Ahaziah                841                                            Joram               852-841        Elisha
Athaliah            841-835                                        Jehu                  841-814
Joash                 835-796             Joel                    Jehoahaz           814-798       Jonah/
Amaziah            796-767                                       Jehoash             798-782       Amos/
Uzziah               767-740           Isaiah                  Jeroboam II       782-753       Hosea
                                                                               Zechariah         753-752
                                                     &                       Shallum            752 (1 mo)
                                                                               Menahem         752-742
                                                  Micah                   Pekahiah          742-740
Jotham              740-732                                        Pekah               740-732
Ahaz                 732-716                                        Hoshea             732-712
Hezekiah           716-687 
Manasseh          687-642           Nahum/
Amon                642-640           Habakkuk/         *722 BC Fall of Samaria to Assyria
Josiah               640-608           Zephaniah
Jehoahaz          608 (3 mo)
Jehoiakim        608-597             Daniel
Jehoiachin       597 (3 mos)      Ezekiel
Zedekiah          597-586           Jeremiah

*586 BC - Jerusalem Conquered and Destroyed
                 (All inhabitants taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

CXXX - I Kings Chapter 11 - Solomon's Troubles

I've always taken pleasure in studying and teaching about Solomon, but I take no pleasure in this chapter.  The tone of the whole narrative changes.  We've seen in the first nine chapters of I Kings where Solomon took Israel into a golden age.  Wealth and peace through military might.  Political alliances, military conquests, and commercial enterprises were major features of Solomon's reign.  But a close inspection revealed serious cracks in Israel's armor.  Economic success was purchased at the expense of human freedom, representative government, and allegiance to God.  We already know which of these will bring down this great nation.  Solomon's successes separated him from his people and from God Himself.  Divine judgement was coming.

Chapter 11:1-8  -  Solomon's Wives

There are several things Solomon did as king that would have negative results, not the least of which would be taking foreign women as his wives.  Many of his wives brought their foreign customs and religions with them.  These women came out of Egypt, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Phoenicia, and the land of the Hittites (currently Turkey).  All of these countries shared common borders with Israel.  The practice of kings marrying women from other nations has been a common practice for centuries when there was political and economic gain as stake.  But God specificly warned against this in Deut. 17:17.  God specfically warned "Israels KINGS" against this in that passage of Deuteronomy.  Verse 4 says straight out:  ......when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods......  Solomon's idolatry I'm sure was a gradual thing.  It always is.  First he became tolerant of their pagan religious practices.  Then he observed them without making corrections.  Then he approved of them, probably making rationalization that those involved were foreigners anyway.  Then he made accomodations for them, as it says he built "high places" for them to practice worshipping their gods.  Then, and predictably, he participated.  Yes, Solomon participated in worshipping pagan gods.  Remember the first commandment:  Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.  God had every right to be angry with Solomon.  {If we look back at II Samuel, we'll see that David had at least one foreign wife, Maacah.  But the significant difference was that David's heart remained perfect with the Lord.}  What was supposed to be the difference between Israel and all other nations was the Israel's God was the one and only God.  The true God.  The Creator of the heavens, the earth and the universe.  Giving one small bit of homage to pagan gods was an abomination in the sight of our Lord.  God demands exclusive loyalty.  In vss 5-7 it mentions a few of these pagan gods.  It says Solomon "followed after" which meant to desire and serve.  Three gods are mentioned by name:  Ashteroth, Molech, and Chemosh.

The goddess Ashteroth was worshipped in Phonicia and Mesopotamia.  She was given different names by the different nations who disired to have her as their "model goddess".  She was considered the "fertility goddess".  People worshipped her in hopes to please her and in turn she would cause their crops, herds, and actual families would be productive and reproductive.  Her temples were little more that centers of prostitution, as the pagans thought sexual activity in her temples would please her more than anything.  (I would have supposed the same thing.)  Worshipping Ashteroth would have been disgusting in the sight of God.

The god Molech was associated with the Ammonites.  Molech was considered to be the master of the Ammonites.  Child sacrifice was associated with the worship of Molech.  Molech worshippers caused their children to "pass through fire" (Jer. 32:35).  Molech's image was the face of a bull-calf with outstretched arms.  The priests would place a sacrificial human child on the arms of the idol.  As the body of the burning child would roll off into the flames, loud noises from drums and musical instruments would drown out the death cries of the child.  {Did Solomon directly participate in this horrible practice?  I choose to think not.}

The third god mentioned is Chemosh, the Moabite god.  The Moabites were known for their extreme idol worship practices, and Chemosh was their chief god.  Worshipping Chemosh included worshipping the stars and child sacrifice.

Solomon built high places for the pagan gods.  He did not build them in Jerusalem, as they would have detracted from the Temple.  Instead, he built them in the southernmost part of the Mount of Olives.

Verses 9-13  -  God Pronounces Judgement

On two previous occassions, God appeared to Solomon:  At Gibeon (3:14) and at Jerusalem (9:4-7).  In both appearances God expressed a warning to Solomon, both of which pertained to keeping God's commandments and obstaining from the worshipping of idols from the pagans which surrounded Israel.  Vs 9 - The Lord became angry with Solomon.  Solomon disobeyed and followed other gods.  So in verse 11 God pronounce His judgement on Solomon:  He would tear the kingdom of Israel away from Solomon and give it to his subordinates.  However, out of respect for David, He would not do it during Solomon's lifetime.  It would come immediately upon his death.  Also, out of respect for David, he would not take all of Israel away from David's descendants.  He would leave the royal reign with two tribes:  Judah, where Jerusalem was, and Benjamin.

Verses 14-40  -  God Raises Up Adversaries Against Solomon

God raised up three adversaries against Solomon, all of which were very affective.  First, he raised up Hadad of Edom.  Earlier, David conquered and purged Edom, but Hadad escaped and fled to Egypt, where he grew support and a small army with which to exact revenge upon Israel.  Hadad opposes Solomon from the south, constantly marauding Israel's shipping caravans and killing Solomon's soldiers using gorilla warfare.  Hadad did not possess the military strength for waging a direct battle with Israel.
Next (vs 23) God stirred up Rezon, the son of Eliadah.  David had earlier defeated Hadadezer (to whom Rezon was loyal) and like Hadad, Rezon escaped the carnage with his life.  He went north so Syria, make Damascus his home where he proclaimed himself king and grew a private army, which made it almost impossible for Solomon to use the trade routes to the north peacefully.
It makes sense to me that Hadad and Rezon were thorns in Solomon's side during the last half of his 40 year reign.  But with Solomon's wisdom, wealth, and military might, they would never have been serious threats to his kingdom.  However, in verses 26-40, God delivers the knock-out blow:  Jeroboam.  You may have heard of Jeroboam.  He was the first king of the ten northern united tribes that was actually called Israel.  He was a force to be reckoned with.  He was an Ephraimite, the son of Nebat.  While Hadad and Rezon were external threats, Jeroboam was a threat from within Israel, which is far worse than any external force.  The name "Jeroboam" meant "May the people be great".  {The modern idea would be "Power to the People".}  Jeroboam was an idustrious type of man, proving himself over and over again, so much that he was recognized by Solomon himself and elevated to quite a responsible position as overseer of the labor forces of Ephraim and Manassah.  Due to Solomon's erroneous decision to force his people into labor and military service, Jeroboam was able to unite all the northern tribes against Solomon.  Jeroboam's efforts in uniting the people against the king was successful.  So much that Solomon began to fear Jeroboam as a serious threat to the throne.  Also, Jeroboam's efforts drew the attention of the prophet Ahijah.  {Remember that all three kings heretofore were anointed by prophets before they were crowned king.}  Jeroboam was to be blessed by the same affirmation of his leadership.  Ahijah obtained a new garment, and arranged to intercept Jeroboam in such a way that would give them privacy.  Upon getting Jeroboam's attention, he tore the garment into twelve pieces (signifying the twelve tribes of Israel).  To tear a brand new garment signified the importance of the meeting.  He instructed Jeroboam to take ten of the pieces, representing ten of the twelve tribes.  Ahijah then pronounced that the tribes would be torn from Solomon.  He also explained to Jeroboam that two of the tribes (Judah and Benjamin) would remain with the current reigning line of kings.  He anointed and appointed Jeroboam king of the ten northern tribes of Israel.

Verse 40 tells us that Solomon put out the decree to kill Jeroboam, causing him to flee to Egypt, where he would remain until Solomon's death.  Verses 41-43 tells us that Solomon regned a total of forty years (about the same length of time as David).  Solomon died and was buried in the city of David (Zion).  And Rehoboam his son became king.

Next Post  -  I Kings Chapter 12  -  Israel Becomes Divided

Monday, March 25, 2013

CXXIX - Chapter 10 - The Queen of Sheba Visits

One might wonder why the Bible dedicated nearly half a chapter to the visit of Sheba's queen.  Solomon's fame spread to distant lands.  Sheba was about 1500 miles from Jerusalem located in the southwest region of Arabia.  It is what is known as Yemen today.  Archeological studies have revealed advanced engineering in dams and irrigation systems dating back to Biblical times.  Therefore we must conclude that Sheba was a highly developed society for the times.  Its location was stratigic for international commerce, as it was right across the narrow straights to all of Africa to the west, and to the east were all the nations of the Persian Gulf.  Caravans undoubtedly were constantly coming through Sheba.  And with the caravans came word of Solomon and his wisdom.  To the northwest of Sheba were also trade routes through Ezion-geber, and another to Damascus.  Solomon controlled both of these routes.  Therefore a meeting of those two leaders would not be
considered unusual. 

Besides all of the commercial advantages to Sheba with a visit to Solomon, but also the Scripture
indicates that the queen was curious to meet this man whose wisdom had become world-renowned.  The first five verses of chapter 10 describes the extravagant splendor of both the queen of Sheba, and the banquet which Solomom had arranged for her.  Observing all before her, the queen was overwhelmed (vs 5).  But the queen is not just impressed with all the wealth and extravagance, but she makes special note of the happiness of the people and the dedication of Solomon and his
people to God.  It even mentions that she observed the rituals in the Temple.

The Scripture ends the telling of her visit as abruptly as it began, ending with verse 13 saying that Solomon gave the queen all that she had desired, which were probably trade agreements and peace treaties.  The remaining verses of chapter 10 describe the extreme riches that Solomon had accumulated, beginning with an annual income of almost $20 million dollars in pure gold.  You need to read these verses and picture in your mind such wealth:  The Ivory throne; the shields made with
over seven pounds of gold each; the steps leading up to the throne with twelve lions on the six steps; all of Solomon's cups and goblets were pure gold.  It mentions in verse 21 that nothing was made of silver because of its inferior value to gold.  Vss 22--> describes the riches being brought to Solomon from all over the world every year.  The latter verses tell of the military might that Solomon built with chariots for his army and the fleet of ships for his navy.
Look back at verses 23-24.  God kept His promise to Solomon when He promised him wealth and wisdom.
HOWEVER, Solomon had begun to slip away from his part of the covenant with God.  With growing wealth and power, Solomon became more and more given to materialism and military buildup.  He stationed a large army in his chariot cities and in Jerusalem to protect his activities with surrounding nations to include trading in war materials and horses.  More drafted labor and slave labor was required for additional construction, and more soldiers for occupying military posts.  Gradually,
Solomon's heart was becoming preoccupied and drawn from God.  In the next post we will see how the Scripture gets more specific in the steps toward his downfall.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

CXXVIII - I Kings Chapter 9 - The Greatness of Solomon

Vss 1-9 - The Lord Appears to Solomon

Back in Chapter 3 of I Kings, God had appeared to Solomon in Gibeon.  That was when God told Solomon that He would grant to him anything he asked for.  Solomon asked for wisdom, and God gave him that and much more, including the promise of wealth and long life.  Here in Chapter 9, God appears to Solomon again.  It seems God (vs 3) is responding to Solomon's prayer at the Temple dedication ceremony which took place a number of years earlier.  God spoke diectly to Solomon.  His words included assurance, a promise, and a warning.  God expressed His pleasure with the Temple by
saying that He consecrated it and put His name there, also saying that His eyes and His heart will always be there.  Then in vss 4-5, God repeats the Davidic covanent to Solomon, which is that IF you (plural) will walk before Me faithfully and with integrity of shall always have a descendant on the throne of Israel.  God had always repeated His warnings and stipulations, often through prophets, but sometimes directly.  He was emphasizing the importance of His words.  {How
many times did Moses repeat himself to the nation Israel, then Joshua did the same thing.}  Then in verses 6-9 God finishes with a stern warning:  If Israel turns its back on God and worshipped the pagen idols and gods, that He would make such rubble out of the throne that the nation would become a laughing stock to all that passed by it.

Beginning in verse 10, the Scripture turns to describing the accomplishments of Solomon, and indeed they are many and great.  {But, as you know, we're going to look deeply into this Scripture and study things of which many are unaware.}  Solomon's vast building projects demanded large expendures, requiring much wealth.  Ultimately, believe it or not, his expenses ran ahead of his income.  {Surprised?  Don't be.  He acquired tons of gold very early in his reign, not to mention the great cedars and juniper.  As was detailed, the Temple was elaborate and expensive to say the least, but that was only the beginning.  He built a palace for himself plus an elequent residence for the Egyptian woman he took to be his queen.  (When I was a teenager, I had a part-time job and always had some money in my pocket.  My dad told me more than once that there were two things that will take all of your money:  A car and a woman.  I always thought that was funny.)  But the reason I think of that in this study is that Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines.  He had to
provide for them and that must have been very expensive, just in food, clothing, and living quarters alone.}  And the labor required for all these building projects!  We'll get into that in a moment.  Remember Hiram, king of Tyre?  Solomon's deal with Hiram made all of the building projects possible.  But for all of Hiram's material, labor, and transportation, he must be paid.  At one time, Hiram sent to Solomon ten thousand pounds of gold.  At today's prices, that is more than 18,000,000.  As a large part of Solomon's payment to Hiram, he was to give him twenty towns, which he did (vs 11).  That is twenty towns for Hiram to own, which would mean all the inhabitants would become Hiram's slaves and Hiram could use all the natural resources those towns had in and on their land.  But take note of the following verses.  Hiram was disappointed in these towns.  He referred to them as "Kabul", which meant "good for nothing".  Nowhere can I find in these chapters that Solomon made this right with his old friend Hiram.

Chapter 15 begins by giving an account of the forced labor he drafted to accomplish all the things mentioned in this section, which included the Temple, palaces (plural), the teraces for his wives and concubines, the wall around Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.  Vs 16 tells that Pharoah captured Gazer, killed all the inhabitants, and gave the city to Solomon as a partial dowry for his daughter when he gave her to Solomon to be his wife.  The Scripture goes on in this section to name a few more of Solomon's accomplishments, all of which required money and labor.  There were hints earlier in the Scripture tht Solomon forced some of the Israelites into labor earlier before he could organize enough foreign Canaanites as slaves.  This would be the basis for the uprising we will study soon.

Verse 20 changes to yet another subject:  Canaanite slaves.  It mentions Amorites, Hittites, Prizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.  All Canaanites were not expelled from the Promised Land (as God instructed Joshua).  Solomon drafted all of these people and enslaved them to his projects.  But Solomon was careful not to refer to any Israelites as slaves.  Although he drafted the Israelites into the military, they were not slaves.  The Israelites were either soldiers or overseers of the Canaanite slaves.  But nonetheless, they were servants to the king.  {Remember what Samuel warned the people about when they wanted him to give them a king?}

Verse 25 mentioned that Solomon was careful to observe the three feasts, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.  Solomon observed these occassions every year by sacrificing burnt offerings at the Temple.

Verse 26 mentions the fleet of ships that Solomon built and created a navy and a merchant fleet.  Hiram provided him with Phoenicians to train the Israelites in seamanship, as they were considered the best in the world.  It makes a point to say that Solomon's navy and merchant fleet were set up in the Red Sea, as Hiram of Tyre was the dominant fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.  {Hiram came out well with his relatinship with Solomon.  Remember, although Hiram had control of shipping on water, Solomon controlled the overland routes, without which Hiram could not safely deliver goods from Tyre to Egypt and Assyria.}  So, as you can see, Solomon was a very busy man, and was successful at everything he undertook.  But he was not without problems associated with such a vast and powerful kingdom.  But we're going to see Solomon's problems multiply and of course there has already been revealed to us the source of his downfall.

Next post:  The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon

Sunday, March 17, 2013

CXXVII - Chapter 8 - Solomon Dedicated the Temple

As we saw in the last post in chapter 7, Solomon has spent twenty years, just about his entire adult life, building the Temple and the adjacent buildings.  The first seven years were spent building the Temple itself and its furnishings.  Although we have already looked Solomon building the palace and other government buildings in chapter 7, we will actually go back 13 years in time as we study chapter 8.  This chapter tells of the dedication of the Temple, which took place just a few months after the building of the Temple was complete.  Solomon certainly did not allow the Temple to go thirteen years as a vacant building while he completed the rest of the complex.  He had placed all the furnishings and utensils in their proper places inside the Temple.  It was now time to dedicate the Temple and begin using it to worship and sacrifice to God, which is why it was built.

Chapter 8  -   Solomon gathered together all the elders, chiefs and other leaders of all twelve tribes of Israel.  He wanted to make this occassion as special and memorable as was possible.  He strategically chose the time of this dedication to coincide with the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorated Israel's wandering in the wilderness.  This celebration always took place in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month of the Hebrew calender.  Solomon's first order of business in this dedication was to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple and place it into its rightful place, underneath the two golden cheribum in the Holy of Holies, the innermost room.  Note in verses 3-4 that although all the tribal dignitaries were present, only the Levites were to transport the Ark.  During this time (vs 5) they were sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that it could not be counted.  The Scripture indicates that Solomon himself was constantly setting the tone and leadiong by example, which was his leadership style.  The Levites placed the Ark in the Holy of Holies.  It said the poles were so long they stuck out so that they could be seen from the Holy Place, the main room in the Temple. 
[Remember, the Ark could only be transported by carrying it by the two poles placed through the golden rings attached to the four corners of the Ark.  The poles must have been longer than
thirty feet as they extended past the entrance to the Holy of Holies, which was thirty foot cubed.}  Note in verse 9 where it says there was nothing inside the Ark except the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.  I researched and I could not find what happened to Aaron's staff or the pot of Manna during this time.  {Brief review:  Under the supervision of Moses, the Ark of the Covenant was built of acacia wood covered with gold when Israel was in the wilderness.  After entering the Promised Land the Ark was in Bethel, Shechem, and Shiloh.  The Philistines captured the Ark and moved it to five different places because so much trouble took place every place they put it.  Due to these many problems and plagues, they sent it back to Israel and it ended up in Kirjath-jearim, where it stayed until David moved it (unsuccessfully) and it rested in Obededom until David's second try when he moved it successfully to a part of Jerusalem known as Zion, which was called the City of David for quite a number of years.}

Vs 10 - When the Ark was set in its proper place in the Temple and the Levites cleared the Holy of Holies, the cloud (which always represented God's presence) filled the temple.  It says the cloud was so overwhelming that the priests could not perform their priestly duties inside the main room in the Temple.  Vss 10-->  When Solomon saw the cloud consume the Temple he knew that God was pleased with His earthly dwelling place.  {We all know, as did Solomon, that no place, including the earth and the entire universe as we know it, could contain the Lord.  However, the mercy seat on top of the Ark of the Covanent was God's chosen place from which He would receive the sacrificial transfer of His people by the High Priest and grant atonement.}

At this time Soloman turned to the people in the Temples courtyard and delevered a speech of dedication to God.  He started his speech by praising God, followed by recounting God's merciful and miraculous acts.  He mentioned his father David's disire to build the Temple, but God reserved that task for his son Solomon.  Then, in verses 22-52, Solomon lifted up his hands and voiced a prayer.  As you read this beautiful prayer by Solomon, it is easy to see how Solomon saw God and also how he saw his own people Israel.  He praised God throughout this prayer, and several times asked God to forgive His people in the event of certain situations he knew would find themselves into the heart of Israel (he was correct).   In this prayer Solomon pleaded that God would hear the prayers and suppications of His people when they repented of their sins and begged forgiveness and deliverence.  All of Solomon's petitions assumed that Israel would sin against God.  He mentioned in his prayer seven instances which would require God's help.  In each instance, Solomon requested that God would hear, forgive, and restore.  {Vss 41-43 - This is important to all of us Gentiles:  Solomon also made reference of the foreigner which indicated that Solomon recognized God as the God of all people, not just Israel.}

Vss 56-61 - After Solomon completed his prayer, he turned to address the people once again.  In these verses, Solomon references both the Mosaic Covanent and the Davidic covanent.  The Mosaic Covanent was God's promise that if Israel would obey His laws as written in the Ten Commandments and the extended writings of Moses, God would protect and bless Israel as God's chosen people.  The Davidic Covanent was God's promose to keep a descendent of David on the throne of Israel as long as the king would keep His commandments and statutes.  Both of these covanents were emphasized by Solomon during this speech to the tribal leaders.  In the remaining verses of this chapter the Scripture tells of hundreds of thousands of animals sacrificed during this celebration, which lasted fourteen days.  On the fifteenth day Solomon sent the people away, joyful and glad in their hearts.  The final verse says that as the people departed, they blessed king Solomon, which at that time was considered a statement of approval and a pledge of allegience to their king.  Solomon hndled this situation perfectly.

Next post  -  Chapter 9  -  The Lord appears to Solomon

Thursday, March 14, 2013

CXXVI - Chapter 7 - Solomon's Palace and the Temple's Furnishings

Comment:  The last post was rather lengthy and I ended it too abruptly.  I did not give justice to some of it.  I failed to mention that only Levite priests were allowed inside the Temple, and only to perform their priestly duties.  But especially, I want to expound a little more on the "Most Holy Place" or also referred to as the "Holy of Holies".  This room was a thirty foot gold cube.  In this room sat the Ark of the Covenant, which was made of gold.  Standing over the Ark were two golden cheribums, both with a wingspan of fifteen feet.  Everything inside this room was solid gold or gold overlay, with only three exeptions, all of which were inside the Ark:  1)  Aaron's rod that budded, 2) The tablets on which God wrote the Ten Commandments, and 3) a pot of manna from the Israelites' forty years in the wilderness.  On top of the Ark was the "Mercy Seat" which was always reserved for God.  It was called the Mercy Seat because that is where God forgave the sins of His people.  Only the High Priest was allowed inside the Holy of Holies, and he was allowed in only once a year.  {Interesting to note that when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, a rope was tied to his ankle.  That was done in case something happened to the High Priest that made it impossible for him to leave on his own.  He could be pulled out by other priests with the rope rather than defiling the Holy of Holies by other priests coming into the room to get him.}  That was the occasion when he brought to God all of the sins of His people.  At this time the High Priest would ask for forgiveness, atonement in lieu of the sacrifices made of all the animals for the past year.  Remember, blood had to be shed in order for sins to have been forgiven.  For a man or woman to have been forgiven, the blood of an innocent animal had to have been shed.  If the animal had not been innocent, it would have died for its OWN sins, and could not take the place of anybody.  The New Testament did not change this requirement God made.  Jesus, because He was totaly innocent of any sin, was able to give His life in atonement for all of our sins.  It is engenious, but it's that simple.  Again, God's requirements have not changed.

Chapter 7

After seven years of building, the Temple is now complete.  In Chapter 7, Solomon proceeds with his plans to build the other buildings that will share the complex with the Temple, one of which will be his palace.  All of the additional buildings will take another thirteen years to build, making the entire project last twenty years.  Solomon's elaborate contruction project included a series of government buildings.  His plan for this complex included five major buildings.  The entire complex of governmental buildings, personal dwelling, and the Temple were surrounded by a wall which formed a court.  A person who entered from the south first came to the house of the forest of Lebanon (vs 2).  It probably served as a treasury and an armory.  Its name came from the forty-five massive cedar pillars that supported its roof.  Next, (vs 7) one would come to the porch or "hall ``of pillars".  It probably was associated with the judicial branch of the government.  There, people could appeal their cases to the highest authority in the Israelite government, which was king Solomon himself.  This Hall of Pillars would be where Solomon would spend a predetermined amount of time, depending of course on the workload determined by the number of cases that made it to the king's court.  The next building was the royal palace where the king lived.  The palace was surrounded by its own court.  The royal palace was next to the Temple court and was the closest building to the Temple itself.  This layout would give Solomon ready access to the Temple.  Next to the royal palace, Solomon built a house for the Pharoahs daughter, who was considered to be the queen.  A separate palace for her was probably in the original marriage arrangement.

Vss 13-51  -  I cannot be certain of the exact time, but during these twenty years of building the structures of the Temple and palace complex, furnishings and utensils for the Temple had to be made.  Vss 13-14 - Solomon wanted the most skilled artisan to make these furnishings.  The person who was the most renowned artisan in dealing with brass and bronz was a man also named Hiram and was also from Tyre.  (The king of Tyre was also named Hiram.)  Hiram the artisan was the son of a Hebrew woman and a Pheonician man. He was a man of  skill, wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (vs 14), thus he was well equipped for the task.  Hiram the artisan was granted much latitude with which to perform such important duties.  He was allowed to choose his place to work, which happened to be a piece of land just east of the Jordan River, certainly away from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem.  The location he chose had to be large because of how large some of the articles were that he made.  For instance, he made the two large pillars that were at the Temple entrance (vss 15-22).  They were about 35 feet tall.  These two pillars were named "Jachin" which meant "establish", and the second one was named "Boaz" which meant "strength".  Another rather large item Hiram fashioned was what they called a bronz sea.  This was a huge tub, 15 feet in diameter and over 7 feet tall.  This bronz sea sat on the back of twelve oxen, a set of three oxen each facing each direction.  (see Temple layout in post CXXV.)  This huge bath was used by the priests for their absolutions (washings).  There were several other utensils such as shovels, pots, basins, and other tools used by the priests whil performing the various rituals in the Temple.  For funishings inside the Temple, gold (vss 48-50) was used rather than bronz, but Hiram was assigned those items as well.  These funishings included the altar of incense, the table of shewbread, and the ten candlesticks along with the necessarey smaller utensils.

Vs 51  -  Twenty years is a long time to be building.  The Temple was Solomon's greatest contribution to Israel's religious life.  He had spared no cost or effort to complete this great monument to honor God.  Finally he got to bring all those items his father David had dedicated to the Lord into their proper place.  The only thing left now was to properly dedicate this great structure to God, which we'll cover in the next post.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

CXXV - Solomon's Temple

This is an exterior view and side cut of the interior view of the temple.  Note the size of the temple on the upper right side of the picture. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

CXXIV - I Kings Chapter 5,6 - Solomon Builds the Temple

King Solomon has been remembered for two great achievements:  His obtaining unmeasurable wisdom, and the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.  A great building project doesn't just happen.  Generally, it begins as an idea in the mind of some person of vision.  Solomon's father David had initiated the idea to build a house for God.  His love for God caused him to be dissatisfied with enjoying the comforts of a king's palace while the Ark of God was being kept in a tent.  For a number of reasons, David was not permitted to build the Temple, but God told David that his son would build the Temple instead of David (II Samuel 7:12-13).  Prior to David's death, he shared his burden concerning the Temple with Solomon.  This is the reason Solomon considered the building of the Temple such a high priority.  And shortly into Solomon's reign he had the wisdom, vision, resources, and the determination to undertake this project with the resolve it deserved.

In the first verse of chapter 5, Hiram King of Tyre is introduced.  Hiram and David had a special relationship with each other.  One of mutual respect and support.  Due to his treaty with David, Hiram enjoyed peace from any enemies from the south, east, and west.  This enables wise Hiram to build his own empire in Lebenon.  He ruled in Tyre (an island off the coast of Lebanon) from 986-935 BC.  Although Tyre's farmland was limited, it contained the forest of Lebenon in which grew the famous cedar trees.  In ancient times the cedars of Lebanon were the epitome of quality and luxurious building material.  Quality cedar such as these was hard, fragrant, close-grained, and resistant to mold or insect damage.  At one time the mountains of Lebanon were covered with these precious cedar trees.  Today, there are only about fifteen acres in a national park in Lebanon that still contain these
trees.  Ancient world powers such as Assyria and Egypt considered them spoils of war and stripped the forests of them in such a way that they could not reseed themselves.  Hiram was more respectful of this resource than that.  Hiram took steps to make sure the acres were not depleted of trees, allowing seedlings to flourish and cross-pollenation to maintain constant replenishment.

The people of Lebanon were the Phoenicians, who are remembered for their seamanship, as Lebanon has miles of border on the Mediteranean Sea.   Hiram's navy had dominated the Mediteranean Sea.  His ships sailed its waters and built a strong economy, using cedar wood as a strong base for trade material.  But David, and later Solomon, had dominated the overland trade routes.  To carry out an effective trade program, Hiram needed access to the overland trade routes.  So Hiram was wise enough to ally himself with Israel.  Also, Hiram had access to little farmland for raising crops and
livestock.  Israelites were master herdsmen and agriculture had become something in which they excelled through the generations.  So, with the wealth Hiram gained from the cedar, he was able to purchase food from Israel and other sources.
When David died, Hiram sent an envoy to Jerusalem as a show of respect and remorse.  This was an opportunity for Soloman to strike a deal.  In the following verses Solomon proposes to Hiram that he would cut the timber, take them to the sea, float them to Israel, and Solomon would take them from the port to Jerusalem.  Solomon would send (in shifts) ten thousand men at a time to help Hiram's Phoenicians cut and transport the timber.  Verse 14 - Solomon recruited thirty thousand men for this job, but no man would spend more than a month at a time away from Israel.  There would be ten
thousand men in Lebanon, ten thousand in Israel, and ten thousand in transit all times.  Solomon used wisdom in dealing with ALL people.  Solomon also had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, as well as over thirty thousand foremen to supervise the work and activities of the workers.

All of the stone were cut to size at the quarry location before it was shipped to Jerusalem.  The reason for this is revealed in chapter 6.  As payment for the cedar, Solomon was to send to Hiram 3600 tons of wheat and 120,000 gallons of olive oil every year for twenty years.  The wheat and the olive oil made Hiram a hero to his people, as grain had always been a precious commodity in this otherwise well-to-do country.

Chapter 6  -  Solomon Builds the Temple

Exactly 408 years after the Israelites left Egypt, Solomon started building a permanent temple in which the Lord could reside.  {Note:  as you read this account, bear in mind that a cubit is about 18" in length.  All demensions are given in cubits.  A cubit was determined by the length of one's lower arm, from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, which averaged about 18", or one and a half foot.  Adam, is it possible for you to find a picture of the Temple along with Solomon's palace and place it in the blog as post CXXV?  If you cannot obtain one, that's OK.  A picture inserted like you did the map would help all to visualize what this Temple and its surrounding buildings actually looked like.  Thanks}  This chapter gives all the specifications of the Temple, much like the Scriptures gave the specifications that Noah used to build the ark.  Note verse 7, which is why he had the stones cut to exact size at the quarry.  "In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built."  {I don't want to make too much of this, but there is something to quiet reverance in God's house.  I am always careful to respect those quiet rituals excersized by some of our brothers and sisters in certain denominations.  It is very important to some people for church sanctuaries to be absolutely quiet as a matter of respect and they can reference I Kings 6:7 to defend it.  I ask noone to subscribe to it, but this mandate by Solomon deserves at least some consideration.  Agree?}  There were three main
sections of the Temple:  The entrance (vestibule), the holy place, and the most holy place.  The most holy place was a room which was thirty feet cubed, in which the Ark of the Covenant was placed.  Everything in this room was overlaid with pure gold.  Over the Ark was placed two cheribum made of gold.  Both had wingspans of exactly fifteen feet, so that each cheribum's wings touched a wall and the wing of the other cheribum.  One must read this chapter carefully to get a flavor of just how luxurious this Temple was.  To give it justice, I would have to merely copy the Scripture in trying to describe it.  The very last verse of chapter 6 tells that it took seven years to build the Temple.

Next post:  Soloman Builds his Palace and other buildings surrounding the Temple

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

CXXIII - I Kings Chapter 3-4 - Solomon's Wisdom

I've often stated that the United States of America is the second greatest nation in the History of civilization.  Second only to Solomon's Israel.  The nation Israel under Solomon's reign was the closest I've seen to "perfect".  In this post we'll find out why.

Wisdom is a priceless possession for a person to obtain and exercise.  It benefits every life it touches.  All Godly men need to sincerely ask God for wisdom.  The reason one must request it from God is because God is the ONLY true source for wisdom.  But wisdom does not come cheap.  Wisdom is discovered and achieved only by those who diligently seek it.

Solomon's father David had been a deeply loved king who possessed a powerful personality.  He inspired unheard-of loyalty in most of his subjects.  He forged a previously devided people into a united nation.  Solomon began his reign under the shadow of an extremely popular and highly successful predecessor.  To fill David's sandals would require everything that Solomon could bring to the task.  And Solomon was smart enough to know his burden.

It was apparent that three items weighed heavily on Solomon's mind when he took the throne.  One was the divine covenant that God made with David regarding David's never lacking a descendant on the throne of Israel.  The second item was the building of the Temple.  And the third item was Solomon's need for wisdom to accomplish his goals.  Solomon knew that the third one must be obtained in order to accomplish the first two.

Chapter 3:1-->  When Solomon took the throne, he hit the ground running.  Although he was only twenty years old, he set out to achieve excellence for Israel. Early in Solomon's reign, he initiated international relationships.  Economic, military, cultural, and political needs made reciprocal agreements with surrounding nations necessary.  Frequently, as was custom, these agreements were sealed through marriage.  (This practice went on for centuries throughout the entire world.)  To make an alliance (vs 1) meant to establish a reciprical agreement.  To seal the first peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Solomon married Pharaoh Siamun's daughter.  David had engaged in similar practices by arranging a marriage for Solomon to Naamah, an Ammonite pricess, about a year before Solomon took the throne.  Given Egypt's power during this time period, solomon's marriage to Pharaoh's daughter was significant.

Vs 5-->  When Solomon began his reign, no single site for worship existed.  Though David had brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and placed it in a tent, the tabernacle was located in Gibeon, about six miles northwest of Jerusalem.  {Gibeon was spared by Joshua due to the rather cunning deception the Gibeonites played on him.}  Since the tabernacle was in Gibeon, Solomon had chosen Gibeon to be the main location for his worhip and sacrifices.  There were many other places of worship, also referred to as "high places".  During one of Solomon's visits to Gibeon, God appeared to Solomon in a dream (vs 5).  God said, "Ask for whatever you want Me to give you".  Think about that question.  Wouldn't that be wonderful?  God asks what you want and He'll give it to you.  I cannot think of anywhere else in the Bible that God asks somebody want they WANTED.  Solomon poured his heart out to God as he responded to this sobering question.  As you read his very short response in vss 6-9 you can feel Solomon's humility.  He told God how overwhelmed he was at the task that lay before him and he was just not capable.  So he asked for wisdom with which to do his job.  Of all the things Solomon could have asked for, he chose that which would most serve the people of Israel.  Needless to say, his attitude and his response pleased God.  Wisdom would enable Solomon to discern between right and wrong, between good and evil.  It would enable him to understand the hearts of men, and their true intentions.  Wisdom would protect him against deceipt and would reveal the hidden meanings of men's words.  {Wouldn't it be great to have Solomon's level of wisdom?  All of the seemingly impossible situations we find ourselves in throughout our lives, dealing with family, work, neighbors, finances, classmates, and yes, even fellow church members.  To have the wisdom, not only to do the right things, say the right words, and make the right decisions, but afterwhich to KNOW you did or said the proper and wise thing.  How wonderful that would be.  Please please pray for wisdom.  God is its ONLY Source.}

Vss 11-14  -  Solomon could have asked for a long and peaceful life, wealth, or success in warfare.  Instead, he sought wisdom in order to fulfill his greater role as kin in discerning judgement and promoting justice throughout the land.  {Then and now, for a nation to be strong, true justice must prevail.  We as citizens must have confident that justice will always be administered by the government.  The opposite of justice is corruption.  Wherever there is corruption or the suspicion of corruption, there cannot exist a peaceful nation.}  God was so pleased with Solomon's request, He gave him more than wisdom.  God made two unconditional promises to the young king.  He promised to honor Solomon with some things which he could have asked for but didn't.  First, God promised him wealth.  (By the end of his reign, Solomon's treasures exceeded that of the crown jewels of England, immeasurable in monetary value.)  Second, God promises him honor.  (Very early in Solomon's reign he became famous throughout the region and beyond, mostly due to his wisdom.  He became the envy of every ruler in every nation, becoming the "gold standard" of ruling excellence.)   And one last (somewhat conditional) promise, God told solomon in vs 14 that, "if you walk in obedience to Me and keep My decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you long life".

Verses 16-28  -  A Wise Ruling

You've probably heard this account many times.  I, as a little boy back in the '50s was familiar with this story, as was all of my friends.  Two women who lived together had babies within three days of each other.  One of the women accidently sufficated her baby while the baby and her were sleeping together.  When she discovered her baby was dead, she quietly switched her baby with the baby of the other woman while they were asleep.  When the other woman awoke, she knew that the dead baby was not hers, and wanted her baby back.  The dispute made its way to the king.  Solomon, knowing there was no way to tell for certain which was the mother of the live baby, decided to discern which of the mothers really cared for the child.  He commanded that the baby be cut in half with a sword and each woman would get a half.  One woman was satisfied with that decision, but the other woman withdrew her claim to the child and asked Solomon to give the child to the other woman in order to spare the child's life.  Solomon immediately awarded the baby to that woman who showed the greatest love for the child.  Vs 28 - And all Israel heard of that judgement and declared Solomon to have wisdom that could only be given by God Himself.  And they were in awe.  God's promise of honor and fame started already.

Chapter 4  -  Solomon's Government

This chapter tells of the way Solomon set up his government.  You can see how he set up administrations for military, economy, and the justice sytem.  It tells of his military might in that he had (Vs 26) forty thousand stables for horses, which means chariots.  On level ground, chariots were far superior to foot soldiers.  That alone tells of Solomon's priorities in building a strong military defense.  As a result of Solomon's conquests and treaties, (vs 25) his kingdom enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity.  To dwell safely meant that the people were free from the threat of foreign invasion or interferance.  The major powers of that time period, Egypt and Mesopotamia, had been neutralized and posed no serious threat.  I like verse 25.  "......dwelt safely under his vine and under his fig tree......".  To dwell under one's vine and fig tree symbolized peace, security, and prosperity.  In Israel, grapes not only were grown in vineyards.  Many houses had grapevines.  They were made to grow on trellises to provide a shade on the rooftop which served as a patio.  To sit in the shade and pluck ripe grapes for eating was a picture of peace.  The fig tree also was grown in most yards and as a rule bore prolifically.  Thus it served as a symbol of plenty or prosperity.  The remaining verses of this chapter describe the extent of Solomon's wisdom.  Vs 29 - .....measureless as the sand on the seashore......  So extensive were Solomon's writings that he became the "Father of Wisdom".  He authored 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs.  Vs 34 - He became so famous that people from all nations came just to listen to Solomon impart wisdom.  You're going to enjoy this studying this man.
Next post - Solomon Builds the Temple

Sunday, March 3, 2013

CXXII - I Kings Chapter 2 - Solomon Solidifies His Kingship

Allow me to take a moment to make a correction.  Two posts ago as I was introducing the Book of I Kings, I indicated that both Books of Kings took us to the calender end of the Old Testament.  I made that statement in error.  Kings takes us to about 550 BC, which is about the time that Judah was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  Israel was taken captive by King Shalmaneser of Assyria many years earlier.  The Old Testament records about 150 years beyond that point,
which we will cover later on.

Also, when I wrote the last post about Adonijah, I neglected to expound on the assumption that Adonijah had the right to be king because he was the oldest living son of David.  "Primogentiture" was a term used for the concept that the oldest son had the right to succeed his father.  This was a popular concept among all the Canaanite nations, as well as Israel.  And, the Mosaic Law heavily favors the oldest sons.  However, In God's chosen nation, this priciple was frequently by-passed.  A few examples of were:

God chose Isaac over his older brother Ishmael
God chose Jacob over Esau
God selected Judah to carry the royal blood line.  (Rueben, Simeon, and Levi were all older than Judah)
David had seven older brothers
And here, Solomon was the tenth son of David

So, although God does not disrespect the concept of primogentiture, He will not honor it if His purpose is better served otherwise.

I Kings chapter 2  -  In quick review, Adonijah's attempt to assume the throne has failed and Solomon has been crowned as the new king of Israel.  David, although extremely ill, directed the entire procedure to make sure Solomon would be the undisputed king.  Adonijah has placed himself at the mercy of Solomon and was conditionally pardoned of his crimes.

We do not know how much time elapsed between Solomon's coronation and David's death.  However, when David sensed his death was at hand, he formally charged Soloman with the responsibility of being king.  Verse 1 - This verse says that David's death was near and he knew it, therefore he "charged" Solomon.  The word is use like it would mean  to "charge" someone with a certain responsibility.  David was transfering kingly authority and responsibility to Solomon.  In that order.  {Have any of you ever been given a responsibility prior to being given authority.  I have.  That is being placed in an unfair situation in most circumstances.  Authority must be given first.}  Vs 2 - David tells him to be strong and act like a man.  Interesting.  Be firm.  Be resolute.  Be mature.  In verse 3 David states the "charge", which entails quite a bit.  Observe what the Lord your God requires (know His requirements and observe them always); walk in obedience to Him; keep His  commandments as written in the Law of Moses.  Then David makes a promise in behalf of God:  Do this and you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.

 Although my research came to a dead end on verse 4, I find it so significant.  Allow me to paraphrase verse 4:  If the people of Israel walk faithfully in the sight of God you (Solomon) will always have a descendant on the throne of Israel.  {As we continue our study we will find out just how prophetic that statement becomes.}  I find verses 5-9 very interesting, as I've never really looked at them closely before.  David is still talking to Solomon about being king.  This is still David's last official words to his successor.  Notice in verse 5.  David had made a few pardons as king.  But he officially releases Solomon of keeping them.  In fact, he urges Solomon NOT to honor them.  Example:  Joab killed Abner and Amasa.  He killed them outside the confines of war.  David never punished Joab.  David tells Solomon to deal with Joab according to your own wisdom, but punish him.  In verse 7 David pleads with Solomon to treat Barzillai extra good.  Verse 8 - Remember Shimei?  He was the man who shouted curses and threw rocks at David when David was fleeing from Jerusalem.  But David forgave and pardoned him for his crime.  But even in David's old age approaching death, he remembers Shimei and tells Solomon in so many words to have him killed violently.  (You need to read these verses to understand the flavor of David's words.)  Then in verse 10, David dies.  {I always hurt when these great men die.  Can't help it.  It grieves my soul.}

Solomon's throne has been established without serious contest.  But Solomon knew he must secure his throne by taking care of some unpleasant details.  The first one was made easy by Adonijah himself.  Solomon pardoned him on the condition that he do nothing to threaten or weaken Solomon's reign.  Adonijah must have been either terribly foolish or thought that Solomon was stupid.  Adonijah asked Bathsheba to talk to Solomon and ask him to give him Abishag (David's concubine) as his wife.  {To have a king's concubine was an open claim to the throne.  How could he have make such a
foolish mistake?}  Solomon immediately recognized this as a ploy to gain power in Isreal.  Solomon had Adonijah killed for breaking his conditional pardon agreement.  Vss 28-->  Solomon wanted to honor David's requests.  After he had Adonijah killed, he proceeded to have Beneieh kill Joab, as David requested.  Solomon was careful to make it known that the Joab's crime was the shedding of innocent blood.  Lastly, Solomon wanted to deal with Shimei, the man who threw rocks at David and cursed him publicly.  Vss 36-->  Solomon summoned Shimei.  Soloman told him to build him a house in Jerusalem and live there, but don't go outside the city or he would be put to death.  For three years Shimei stayed mindful and obedient to Solomon's directive.  Then one day two of Shimei's slaves had escaped and Shimei went after them which took him far out of Jerusalem.  It was reported to Solomon, who then had Shimei executed.  This was the last of the special requests made to Solomon from his father David.  The final verse in this chapter says "The kingdom was now established in Solomon's hands.

Next post  -  Solomon asks for wisdom.

Friday, March 1, 2013

CXXI - Think on These Things

As I mentioned before, on the first of each month I will send a list of things for you to think on as a review of what we've covered thus far.  If you are unable to bring to mind significant thoughts concerning each of these, you might want to scan the pertinent blog posting.  This list will get lengthy as we proceed through our study.

The Creation
Adam and Eve
The Fall
Cain Kills Abel
Noah and the Ark
Noah's Son:  Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Tower of Babel
Sodom and Gomorrah
Isaac Is Born
Hagar and Ishmael
Abraham Tested
Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob and Esau
Stolen Birthright
Laban, Rachel, Leah
Jacob's Ladder
The twelve sons of Jacob = Israel
Joseph the Dreamer
Joseph and Potifer's Wife  =  Prison
Cupbearer and Baker
Joseph and Pharaoh
Jacob's Son's Reunite
Israel Goes to Egypt
400 Years of Slavery in Egypt
Moses is Born
Moses Kills Egyptian - Becomes Fugitive
God Commissions Moses
Ten Plagues of Egypt
The Exodus
Israel Through the Wilderness
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle
The Ark of the Covenant
The Golden Calf
Cloud by Day, Pillar of Fire by Night
Levitican Law
Forty Years in the Wilderness
Twelve Spies sent to Canaan
Moses Gives Final Sermons
Joshua Replaces Moses as Leader of Israel
Rahab the Canaanite Prostitute
Crossing the Jordan; 12 Stones
Battle of Jericho
Land Allotments for the 12 Tribes
Baal and Ashteroth
Gideon Lays Out the Fleece
Samson and Delilah
Ruth and Boaz
Hannah Dedicates Samuel
Saul - Israel's First King
David and Goliath
Jonathan, David's Friend
The Ark Returns to Jerusalem
David and Bathsheba
Solomon Crowned King