Sometime after the completion of construction of the temple, Solomon has the ark of the covenant, the tent of meeting (tabernacle), and all the holy vessels within brought from the old city of David so that the ark could be brought into the temple. Like in the tabernacle (see Exodus 40), the inner sanctuary – or most holy place – is where the ark would be kept. Only the priests could enter there (verse 6), and only they could “take up” the ark (verse 3). Missing from the description of the contents of the ark are Aaron’s rod (Numbers 17:10-11) and the jar of manna (Exodus 16:32-34) that we are told were kept there at one time (Hebrews 9:1-5). We are not told what had become of them. After the priest’s came out, a cloud filled the temple as the glory of the Lord described in Exodus 40:34-38 – so that the priests were not able to even stand (verses 10-11).
Solomon’s speech and his prayer to the Lord make up the rest of the chapter. The prayer is beautiful and significant in that the people would eventually need all of the petitions of this prayer to be granted. Solomon acknowledges in verses 27 and 29-30 that God cannot be contained in an earthly dwelling, but that as the Lord had said, His name shall dwell there – the word “name” in biblical terms meaning all that constitutes the character and essence of all that He is. And in place toward which His eyes are open.
The prayer consists of several petitions concerning granting mercy to the people when they repent of their sins during and after times including war, famine, drought, exile, and captivity – that the Lord would once again regard them as His people after repentance and “maintain their cause” (verse 49). The Lord answers Solomon in 9:1-9 with a promise and a warning of what would happen if they turn aside, with a particular emphasis on warning against idolatry in verse 9.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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