Researched Writer Sir Godfrey Gregg OHPM, ROMC, D. Div
The Temple of Solomon
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
(Psalm 127. A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.)
Kings Come to Ancient Israel
After the conquest of the land and the death of that great leader Joshua, the tribes of Israel settled into the chaotic, disjointed, and disorganized period described in the Book of Judges. This whole time period of nearly four centuries was characterized by the repeated descriptive phrase, “In those days there was no king in the land, everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) Failure to drive out and exterminate the corrupting Canaanites who lived previously in the land caused these peoples to grow back like poisonous weeds until they oppressed and harassed Israel.
During this time God graciously raised up “judges” (shophetim) who reversed the status quo for a season by calling on God and rally the people around the One who had chosen them and commissioned them to occupy the land.
Moral and spiritual conditions were very low at Shiloh when the prophet Samuel was born. The Levitical priesthood under Eli was about to be disqualified in the deaths of Eli’s disreputable sons Hophni and Phinehas. Although God had desired to rule Israel as their invisible Monarch and Lord, the people clamored for a national champion to rule them:
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots – and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel – and they said, “No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD.
And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken to their voice, and make them a king. (1 Samuel 8:4-22)
The first king chosen, Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, a son of Kish – though a man of proven military ability – failed the tests God gave him and was soon disqualified (1 Samuel 15) leaving the newly formed “monarchy” in a state of civil war.
Young David, a Bethlehemite shepherd lad from the tribe of Judah was then chosen by God. As everyone knows, he proved by his wise choices to be a man “after God’s own heart.” As a great military strategist David united the tribes and extended the national boundaries so that in his time Israel enjoyed a greater fraction of the land promised to Abraham than has ever since been the case.
David ruled as king for seven years and Hebron, then established his throne in Jerusalem after overcoming the ancient Jebusite (Canaanite) community there. His reign continued there in Jerusalem for the next 32 years. Secure on his throne and dwelling in a magnificent palace of cedar and stone, David began to be concerned that he, the visible king, dwelled in a magnificent house, but the invisible King of kings still dwelt in an aging temporary tent, the Tabernacle of Moses.
At first the prophet Nathan gave David approval to construct a temple, but the following night God intervened. Speaking to Nathan in a dream God laid out for David an amazing covenant whose promises continue to this present day. God committed himself to establishing the house of David forever, to a specific land and people (Israel), and to a temple (2 Samuel 7). Messiah, in fact, would be one of David’s sons.
David, a man of war, was not, however, to build the First Temple. That task was given to his son Solomon, although David drew up the plans.
The fact that other nations had temples and Israel did not is not the reason The First Temple was to be built. The Temple was to be a memorial to Israel to turn her heart away from the idols of the surrounding nations. The Temple would provide them for an incentive not to practice the same evil things as the Canaanites.
After the Temple was built, the Tabernacle was dismantled. It may have been stored in a room under the Temple Mount. It is quite possible it is still there to this day, as many rabbis and authorities in Jerusalem believe.