1 Kings Chapter 6
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Go to Bible: 1 Kings 6
“In the four hundred eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt.” This is 975 BC according to the calculations done by Spirit & Truth, and 966 BC done by many other scholars (cp. NIV Study Bible text note). Thus, according to the STF chronology, the Exodus was in 1454 BC (the NIV chronology has 1446 BC). This is the early chronology based on biblical data. Many scholars reject the biblical chronology and date biblical events from an Egyptian chronology that has been constructed and thus have a later Exodus date of about 1250 BC, but there is good reason to reject the later chronology and accept the biblical chronology. A number of books have been written about this.a
“in the month Ziv, which is the second month.” The month Ziv is approximately our May. So Solomon started building just as the rainy season in Israel came to an end.
Cp. David Rohl, Pharaohs and Kings.
“was 60 cubits long and 20 cubits wide and 30 cubits high.” The “house” is the Temple proper, consisting of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The vestibule (which some translations call a porch or portico, but it was a room, with walls and a roof) was not part of the Temple proper. The Temple was roughly 90 feet (27.5 m) deep from front to back, 30 feet wide (9 m), and 45 feet (13.7 m) high. The REV is using the approximate measure of 18 inches for a cubit (see the commentary on 2 Chron. 3:3).(top)
“The vestibule at the front of the Holy Place of the house.” The Temple Solomon built had three rooms: the “vestibule” was the outermost room, and it was the first room a person entered when going into the Temple. As we see from 1 Kings 6:2, the vestibule was not considered part of the Temple proper. The Temple proper consisted of the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. After the vestibule were two more rooms: the Holy Place and the most inner room, which was the Holy of Holies. The Tabernacle of Moses only had the Holy Place and Holy of Holies; it did not have an outer vestibule, but Solomon’s Temple and Herod’s Temple had a vestibule, and so will the future Temple described in Ezekiel 40-43. 1 Kings 6:3 is giving the size of the vestibule. The “house” in 1 Kings 6:3 is the entire Temple, consisting of the three rooms.
Many English versions do not read “vestibule,” but that does seem to be the meaning of the word and that meaning is supported by many scholars. The problem with translating the sections of the Bible that speak of the Temple (including Ezekiel’s Temple) is that many of the terms are specific architectural terms, and it can be difficult to determine what they refer to, or if they are used in different ways in different contexts. To use a modern example, some buildings have “vestibules,” some have “lobbies” and some have neither; also, typically doors have “jambs” and many doors have a “lintel” (but if it is part of the frame it is more often called a “head jamb”). Buildings have specific terms with specific meanings, and the Hebrew text has architectural terms with specific meanings, but there is not an “Ancient Hebrew Dictionary of Architectural Terms” that scholars check, so they often disagree on the meanings of the words and build different models of the buildings based on their understanding of the terms. Many English Bibles translate the vestibule as “porch,” but that term does not seem accurate because a porch is typically open or has just a roof, but the vestibule had walls; it was a room.
“Holy Place.” The Hebrew word translated “Holy Place” is heykal (#01964 הֵיכָל), and in this context, it refers to the Holy Place, where the menorahs, the tables of the Bread of the Presence, and the golden altar of incense were. The Hebrew word heykal has at least three distinct meanings in the Bible: the palace of a king or ruler (2 Kings 20:18), the Tabernacle or Temple as a whole (1 Sam. 1:9; Jer. 7:4), and the Holy Place of the Temple, that is, the main room that had the menorah and the tables with the Bread of the Presence (1 Kings 6:3, 5; 7:50; Neh. 6:10). This main room, the Holy Place, is called a “nave” in some English Versions because the nave of a church is the main room in which the congregation sits during a church service, and the Holy Place is the main room in the Temple. However, there is enough difference between the “Holy Place” of the Temple and the “nave” of a Church that the word “nave” can be confusing, and furthermore, most Christians do not know what a “nave” is.(top)
“framed niches.” It is unlikely that these niches are “windows,” even though many versions read that way and the Hebrew word can mean “window.” However, there is no evidence that the Temple would have had windows that people might peer through. The Tabernacle certainly had no windows. These were likely some kind of window-size niches that were recessed and had frames, and the fact that they were described as being “shut” would indicate that the niche did not go all the way through the wall. Our Western culture loves windows because they let in light and make a room look larger, but the Temple was different. It was designed to keep God and the priests separate from the outside world. Any peering in from the outside would have been considered a great intrusion. Furthermore, the walls of the Temple had side rooms or stories all around it, and there would be no point in having a window in the Temple that looked out into a side room. However, we must allow for the possibility that the Temple had windows that were above the side rooms and thus more than 22 feet above the floor of the Holy Place (and therefore more than 12 feet above the floor of the Holy of Holies. Those windows could be covered, but then what would have been the purpose of having them to begin with?
For a window, there are “frames,” whereas for doors there is a “lintel” above the door (1 Kings 7:4).(top)
“he built stories all around.” There were side rooms on the north, west, and south sides of the Temple. These side rooms were built such that there were three levels or “stories” of side rooms. The Bible never says what they were used for, but they could have been for storage and also used as rooms for the priests who were serving in the Temple. Two times a year the priests served for one week, and they also served at all three of the major feasts, Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Especially at the feasts, there would be very many priests and a great need for housing. As this verse says, the side rooms were against the outer wall of the Temple proper, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. They were not built against the wall of the vestibule at the front of the Temple.
[For more on the Holy Place, which is the heykal in Hebrew, see commentary on 1 Kings 6:3].(top)
“so that the beams would not have to be inserted into the walls of the house.” The Temple (the “house”) did not have outer walls that went straight up and down. The outer walls of the Temple stair-stepped upward with three stair steps or insteps, so the outer wall of the Temple at the top was three cubits thinner than the wall at the bottom. That meant that the side rooms that were against the outside wall of the Temple could be built one above another in stories against the outer wall of the Temple with the beams of the roof of the first story (which was also the floor of the second story) set on top of the stair-step wall of the Temple. Such a roof/floor structure could bear the weight of the stories above it, and the beams that were the roof of one story (and the floor of the next) did not have to be inserted into the wall of the Temple. The wall of the Temple itself was thick enough that even though the upper wall was three cubits thinner than the lowest section of the wall, the upper wall could still support the weight of the Temple roof.
The outer wall of the side rooms went straight up. That meant the rooms of each story had to be longer from the outer to the inner wall than the story below it. As the outer wall of the Temple stair-stepped inward, the beams that had to reach from the outer wall of the side room to the outer wall of the Temple had to be longer than the beams of the story below it. As the Temple wall stair-stepped in by one cubit with each story, the rooms in those stories had to be longer by a cubit too. That is why the first-story rooms were only 5 cubits from the outer wall to the inner wall, the second story was 6 cubits from wall to wall, and the third story was 7 cubits from wall to wall. As the Temple wall stair-stepped inward, the roof/floor beams and the rooms had to be made longer and longer.
So, the lowest part of the outer wall of the Temple was six cubits thick (9 feet), and the lowest story of side rooms that were outside that lowest part of the wall were five cubits (7.5 feet) from front to back (that is, from outside wall to inside wall). All the side rooms were 5 cubits high (7.5 feet) (1 Kings 6:10), so after going up for 5 cubits, the 6-cubits-thick outer wall of the Temple was stair-stepped inward by one cubit (so the Temple wall was now one cubit thinner), and was only 5 cubits thick. The beams that were both the roof of the first-story rooms and the floor of the second-story rooms rested on that one-cubit offset instead of having to be cut into the outer wall of the Temple. The one-cubit instep in the outer wall of the Temple made the second story one cubit longer from front to back, which was why the first story rooms were only 5 cubits from front to back but the second story rooms were 6 cubits from front to back. After the second story, the outer wall of the Temple was stair-stepped inward again by one cubit, so that the roof of the second-story rooms, which was the floor of the third-story rooms could be set on that offset. That offset made the outer wall of the Temple adjacent to the third story of the side rooms only 4 cubits thick, and it also meant that the roof beams of the second story, which were the floor beams of the third story, had to be seven cubits long and the third story room 7 cubits in length from front to back. Then the Temple wall stair-stepped inward a third time creating a third one-cubit-wide ledge. At that point, the outer wall of the Temple was only 3 cubits thick (4.5 feet), and the roof beams of that third story of the side rooms had to be eight cubits long and they were set on the ledge of the Temple that was created by that third stair-step inward.
This architecture created a very pleasing look. Looking from east to west, the Temple itself (a person would be looking directly at the vestibule) was 20 cubits (30 feet, 9 m) wide. Then there would be side rooms visible on both the north and south side of the Temple (the side rooms on the west side of the Temple could not be seen from the east). The side rooms went straight up and down and were 15 cubits high (22.5 feet. 6.8 m). One could not see from the outside that the outer wall of the Temple was stair-stepped inward to support the beams of the side rooms, nor could one see from the outside that each story of the side rooms was one cubit larger than the story below it.(top)
|1Ki 6:7||- (top)|
“The entrance.” It does not seem to make much sense that the three stories of rooms around the south, west, and north sides of the Temple would only have one entrance, which was on the south side, but that is what the text says and there does not seem to be any variation or reason to question the accuracy of the text. But it would mean that the only way to get to a room on the north side of the Temple would be to enter the entrance on the south and walk all the way around the Temple. Also, the Bible does not explain how a person could get to any individual room, and scholars debate about it. It does not seem at all likely that the rooms had doors in the sides and people had to walk through a room to get to the next one. There must have been some kind of hallway at each level, but whether that hallway was on the outside or inside of the rooms is not described.
“lowest side rooms.” Although the Masoretic Text reads “middle,” that is a scribal error as can be seen from reading the verse. The Septuagint and Aramaic Targum read “lowest,” and how “lowest” could have been miscopied into “middle” is explained in many commentaries.a
“right side.” The right side was the south side.
Cp. Walter Maier,
“roofed the house.” The Temple roof, its “cover,” was cedar beams covered with cedar planks (for translations that use “roof,” cp. BBE; CEB; CJB; GWN; NAB; NIV; NRSV).
“beams and planks of cedar.” In 1929 there was an earthquake in Jerusalem that caused great damage to the El Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and there were dozens of huge cedar beams exposed, at least one of which was carbon-dated to as early as the First Temple period, the period of Solomon's Temple. Since Solomon’s Temple and Herod’s Temple were both burned, it is quite unlikely that the beams in the mosque came from those temples, but they could easily have come from some of the other buildings of that time period. Pictures of those beams can be found on the Internet.(top)
“And he built the stories along the entire house.” The three stories of rooms have already been described in 1 Kings 6:5-8, except 1 Kings 6:10 gives the height of each story as five cubits. Also, “the entire house” does not include the east side, as is explained in 1 Kings 6:5. The three-story side rooms were only around the Holy Place and Holy of Holies, and on the north, west, and south walls of the Temple.
“five cubits.” Five cubits is 7 ½ feet, or about 2 ¼ meters. A 7 ½ foot ceiling is lower than a standard eight-foot ceiling today, but the average Israelite was shorter than the average American.(top)
|1Ki 6:11||- (top)|
|1Ki 6:12||- (top)|
|1Ki 6:13||- (top)|
“So Solomon built the house and finished it.” This is very similar to 1 Kings 6:9.(top)
“of the house.” The “house” is the Temple.
“to the rafters of the ceiling.” The Masoretic text reads, “to the walls of the ceiling,” but that is an apparent scribal error where “rafters” was miscopied to “walls,” which in Hebrew was an easy mistake. The Septuagint also reads rafters.(top)
“he built it on the interior of the Temple as an inner sanctuary.” So Solomon built a wall of cedar boards inside the Temple that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.
“an inner sanctuary; the Holy of Holies.” There are two names here for the Holy of Holies, the “inner sanctuary” (the debir, #01687 דְּבִיר), and the Holy of Holies (the qodesh ha qodeshim, #06944 קֹדֶשׁ). The “inner sanctuary” (the debir) is from the root DBR, which is related to the word speech or speaking (cp. dabar, “word”), thus the translation “oracle” in some English translations.(top)
“In front of the Holy of Holies.” The “front” of the Temple was the east side, so in front of, or east of, the Holy of Holies was the Holy Place. That is where the menorahs and the tables for the Bread of the Presence were. The Holy Place was 40 cubits (60 feet; 18 m) from front to back. The Hebrew word translated “Holy Place” is heykal (#01964 הֵיכָל), and it is called a “nave” in some English Versions because the nave of a church is the main room in which the congregation sits during a church service, and the Holy Place is the main room in the Temple.
[For more on the Holy Place, see commentary on 1 Kings 6:3.](top)
|1Ki 6:18||- (top)|
“the inner sanctuary.” Also called “the Holy of Holies” (cp. 1 Kings 6:16).(top)
“The interior of the inner sanctuary.” The “inner sanctuary” is the Holy of Holies.
“and 20 cubits in its height.” The Temple was 30 cubits high (1 Kings 6:2), so if the Holy of Holies is only 20 cubits high, then either the ceiling is lower or the floor is higher. The floor height of both rooms may be the same and there may be upper chambers above the Holy of Holies (2 Chron. 3:9), or the floor of the Holy of Holies is ten cubits (15 feet) higher than the floor of the Holy Place. That would be quite a stairway up, but it would set the Holy of Holies apart as an especially holy place.(top)
“and he drew chains of gold across the front of the inner sanctuary.” If this reading is correct, the Holy of Holies was separated from the Holy Place by doors, a curtain, and gold chains. It is possible that the text could be saying something like, “and he passed chains of gold back and forth across the front of the inner sanctuary.”(top)
“that belonged to the inner sanctuary.” The golden altar of incense was just in front of the Holy of Holies (the inner sanctuary), and burned incense in honor of God. The altar could not have been in the Holy of Holies, or only the High Priest could have lit that altar and only on the Day of Atonement (see commentary on Heb. 9:4).(top)
“pinewood.” The Hebrew is not the normal word for “pine” or “pine tree,” but is more literally “oil tree.” However, an “oil tree” would fit the Allepo pine, which is a very good possibility for this tree. The Allepo pine is very sappy, which is why it might be called an “oil tree.” Furthermore, the wood of the Allepo pine would be much better for making the cherubim and the wooden doors of the Temple than olive wood would be. It is worth noting that the tree here in 1 Kings 6:23 is distinguished from the olive tree in Nehemiah 8:15, where this tree and the olive tree are two different trees. It should also be noted that while the wood of the olive tree is very beautiful, the olive tree is not large and is very twisty, so trying to make planks for doors or large carvings such as a 15-foot by 15-foot cherubim would be extremely difficult, whereas the wood from the Aleppo pine is much more fitting for that kind of woodwork.a
Mordechai Cogan, 1 Kings [AB].
|1Ki 6:24||- (top)|
|1Ki 6:25||- (top)|
|1Ki 6:26||- (top)|
“cherubim.” See commentary on Exodus 25:20 and Ezekiel 1:5.(top)
|1Ki 6:28||- (top)|
“he carved all around the walls of the house with carved figures.” Solomon carved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers all over inside the wooden walls of the Temple, both in the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. Solomon carved (a verb) carved figures (nouns) on the Temple walls; the double use of “carved” in both the verb and noun forms emphasized the intricate work that went on in decorating the Temple. This work, especially in the Holy of Holies into which only the High Priest went and only one day a year and no one else could ever see, was clearly an act of worship and love for God.
“both the inner and outer rooms.” That is, both the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.(top)
|1Ki 6:30||- (top)|
“pinewood.” See commentary on 1 Kings 6:23.
“the doorframes had five recesses.” See Yosef Garfinkel and Madeleine Mumcuoglu.a Note also the CEB translation: “He made the doors of the inner sanctuary from olive wood and carved the doorframes with five recesses.”
See Yosef Garfinkel and Madeleine Mumcuoglu, Solomon’s Temple and Palace: New Archaeological Discoveries, 129.
“pinewood.” See commentary on 1 Kings 6:23.(top)
“And also he made door frames of pinewood with four recesses.” See Yosef Garfinkel and Madeleine Mumcuoglu.a Note also the CEB translation: “He made the door of the main hall with doorframes of olive wood with four recesses.”
See Yosef Garfinkel and Madeleine Mumcuoglu, Solomon’s Temple and Palace: New Archaeological Discoveries, 129.
“pivoted on sockets.” Doors in the ancient world pivoted on sockets. Effective hinges were not invented yet. The door would have a pin at the top and bottom that fit into a socket, and the pins would turn in the socket as the door opened and shut. Some translators see these doors as folding doors, but how that would happen is unclear, and the archaeological and historical evidence favors there just being two doors that pivoted on pins and sockets.(top)
“palm trees.” The word for palm tree refers to smaller palm trees, likely shorter from top to bottom.(top)
“He built the wall of the inner court.” There was a wall around the inner court, but the height of that wall is never given. The inner courtyard would have the altar of sacrifice in it. The inner court is the “court of the priests,” and there was a larger court outside of it (2 Chron. 4:9).
“three courses of cut stone and a course of cedar beams.” The wall built like this would have to be large enough that people could not look over it. But we cannot tell from the text if the stones were thick, or if the 3 courses of stone and then a cedar beam repeated itself to get to the desired height.(top)
|1Ki 6:37||- (top)|
“So he was building it for seven years.” The time was actually seven and one-half years. Usually, a half year is rounded up to the next year, and we would expect the Bible to say Solomon was building the Temple for eight years. Why the number is rounded down is not explained.(top)