Posts Tagged ‘Solomon’

1 KINGS 8:22-30, 41-43

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. 23 He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24 the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. 25 Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! 28 Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place.30 Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.

41 “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name42 —for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, 43 then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.”

We can hear the trepidation in Solomon’s words as he dedicates to God the newly built temple in Jerusalem. Yahweh had admonished David earlier for the presumption in his plans to erect a place for the deity to dwell. And what about that? Was God now of a different mind on the subject? A sacred house is acceptable today, but wasn’t yesterday? David couldn’t, but now Solomon can?

There is a rather fascinating undercurrent to the history of Israel’s progress toward becoming an empire like others round about, something of a counter-voice to the entire project. The prophet Samuel had anointed Saul king only after God reluctantly gave in to the people’s demand for a royal leader. Previous to that, Yahweh had been their Lord. Even after the throne was established, generations of prophets continued to rail against the corruption of kings, one after another.

Similar criticism sprang up around the plans to build a temple for God in the capital city of Jerusalem. Wasn’t it enough that the nation had set up a human authority in the place of God, and now they want to store Him away inside a shrine where He can be worshiped at their convenience? Later on, the prophet Jeremiah would be especially reproachful of a popular belief concerning the temple, that its presence in the city guaranteed it invincible to enemy attack.

PSALM 48

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
    in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
    is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
    the city of the great King.
Within its citadels God
    has shown himself a sure defense.

Then the kings assembled,
    they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
    they were in panic, they took to flight;
trembling took hold of them there,
    pains as of a woman in labor,
as when an east wind shatters
    the ships of Tarshish.
As we have heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
    which God establishes forever.

We ponder your steadfast love, O God,
    in the midst of your temple.
10 Your name, O God, like your praise,
    reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with victory.
11     Let Mount Zion be glad,
let the towns of Judah rejoice
    because of your judgments.

12 Walk about Zion, go all around it,
    count its towers,
13 consider well its ramparts;
    go through its citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
14     that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
    He will be our guide forever.

Ancient capitals and larger towns were built according to a sacred design and architecture, with the temple dwelling of a patron deity situated at the center and everything else coordinated around its holy space. David’s Mount Zion was the hilltop in the Canaanite city of the Jebusites, taken and occupied by David’s armies and later named Jerusalem, where the high god (El) had long been believed to condescend to the worship and sacrifices of his people.

When David made the city his capital and transported the Ark of the Covenant to the holy precincts of this mythologized mountain, Zion became the symbol and actual touchstone whence the grace and power of the biblical God radiated forth.

Solomon, David’s son and successor, is the one who made the fateful decision to build a temple for God on Zion, which set up the cooperative (but eventually competitive) division of “church” and “state” that some argue gave rise to the otherworldly preoccupations of later religion. For David himself, the mountain represented the “high place” where heaven and earth, the divine and the human, could meet and merge. Politics, commerce, and even private life were to be organized beneath and around it.