World Chronology, Lesson 10. The Temple of Solomon (960 BC)

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We have studied several very important periods and events. You should be able to explain the chronology from the creation of the world to the end of David’s life, as if you were connecting the dots. If you cannot, spend some time reviewing your recent lessons until you can.

In the last lesson, we learned that at the end of David’s life, he gave his son Solomon this charge:

“Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the LORD, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do, wherever you turn.”

Just before his death, David formally named Solomon his heir, and Solomon was set in place on the throne in Israel.

When we read of Solomon, we must remember that Our Lord presented himself as the “One greater than Solomon”. Thus, as we study Solomon let us look carefully for glimpses of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. However, we must understand that what we find on an earthly level in Solomon’s life, we will later find on a heavenly level in Christ’s life.

As Catholics, we hold the Virgin Mary in high esteem. In fact, we believe that she is worthy of the highest glory of any of God’s creatures. In Catechism, we learn that there are three levels of glory given to God and His creatures. God is given the highest praise (latria). The saints and angels are given a level of honor known as dulia. The honor that stands between latria and dulia is hyperdulia, which is given to the Blessed Virgin alone. Many Protestants hate this idea and believe that Mary is not to be given any special treatment. However, we find that the life of Solomon proves the Catholic view correct. Consider this scene from the time just after Solomon is named king. A man wishes to ask a favor of the king, but goes to his mother, Bathsheba instead:

Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right. “There is one small favor I would ask of you,” she said. “Do not refuse me.” “Ask it, my mother,” the king said to her, “for I will not refuse you.”

Here is a glimpse of Christ in King Solomon–and much more! We see the principle that leads us to honor and pray to His Mother, the Virgin Mary, as men in Solomon’s day asked favors of him through his mother, Bathsheba. If Solomon did homage to a mother who was immoral in her past, how much more will Christ honor his Mother who was without sin and suffered so much for His sake? Let us then pray to her, knowing that the King of Heaven will never refuse her.

We see there is much to learn in the life of Solomon!

Let us remember two important things from the life of David, that will help us understand the life of his son. First, David took great care for Solomon’s education–teaching him to seek Wisdom above anything else in the world. Second, David desired to build a temple for God in Jerusalem, but didn’t have the chance to do so.

Solomon’s life as king begins with a mysterious dream. God comes to Solomon at night and gives Solomon the opportunity to ask for anything he desires. We can imagine all of the possible things we might ask for: riches, power, fame, a long life, and so on. However, we must remember what David taught his son.

“Get wisdom, get understanding! Do not forget or turn aside from the words I utter…at the cost of all you have, get understanding. She will put on your head a graceful diadem; a glorious crown will she bestow on you.”

Remembering his father’s teaching and thinking of the people he must shepherd, Solomon asks for Wisdom. God is pleased with Solomon’s request and as a reward for his virtue, blesses him with all the things he didn’t ask for as well! God makes Solomon the wisest man in the world, but also gives him riches, power, fame and long life. In this, Solomon proves himself worthy of David’s trust.

God gave Solomon wisdom and exceptional understanding and knowledge, as vast as the sand on the seashore. He was wiser than all other men and his fame spread throughout the neighboring nations. Solomon also spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He discussed plants and he spoke about beasts, birds, reptiles, and fishes. Men came to hear Solomon’s wisdom from all nations, sent by all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom. What we see here is that Solomon was wise in much more than politics. His wisdom extended to include Logic, Rhetoric, Moral Philosophy, Natural Philosophy, Music and much more. In fact we see that Solomon was among the first men in the history of the world to have the wisdom we seek in our study of the classical liberal arts.

The Construction of the Temple

Adapted by William C. Michael from 1 Kings 5-6

When Hiram, king of the wealthy city Tyre, heard that Solomon had been anointed king in place of his father, he sent an embassy to him; for Hiram had always been David’s friend. Solomon sent back this message to Hiram: “You know that my father David, because of the enemies surrounding him on all sides, could not build a temple in honor of the LORD, his God, until such a time as the LORD should put these enemies under the soles of his feet.

But now the LORD, my God, has given me peace on all sides. There is no enemy or threat of danger. So I intend to build a temple in honor of the LORD, my God, as the LORD spoke before to my father David when he said: ‘It is your son whom I will put upon your throne in your place who shall build the temple in my honor.’ Give orders, then, to have cedar trees from Lebanon cut down for me. My servants shall accompany yours, since you know that there is no one among us who is skilled in cutting timber like the Sidonians, and I will pay you whatever you say for your servants’ salary.”

When he had heard the words of Solomon, Hiram was pleased. Hiram then sent word to Solomon, “I agree to the proposal you sent me, and I will provide all the cedars and fir trees you wish.”

The LORD gave Solomon wisdom as he promised him, and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, since they were parties to a treaty. King Solomon conscripted thirty thousand workmen from all Israel. He sent them to Lebanon each month in groups of ten thousand, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the mountain, in addition to three thousand three hundred overseers, answerable to Solomon’s officials for the work, directing the people engaged in the work. By order of the king, fine, large blocks were quarried to give the temple a foundation of hewn stone. Solomon’s and Hiram’s builders, hewed them out, and prepared the wood and stones for building the temple.

In the four hundred and eightieth year from the departure of the Israelites from the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, the construction of the temple of the LORD was begun. The temple which King Solomon built for the LORD was ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and about 38 feet high. The porch in front of the temple was thirty feet from side to side, along the width of the nave, and fifteen feet deep in front of the temple. The temple was built of stone dressed at the quarry, so that no hammer, axe, or iron tool was to be heard in the temple during its construction.

When the temple was built to its full height, it was roofed in with rafters and boards of cedar. The annex, with its lowest story five cubits high, was built all along the outside of the temple, to which it was joined by cedar beams. When Solomon finished building the temple, its walls were lined from floor to ceiling beams with cedar paneling, and its floor was laid with wood planking. The cedar in the interior of the temple was carved in the form of gourds and open flowers; all was of cedar, and no stone was to be seen. In the innermost part of the temple was located the sanctuary to house the ark of the LORD’S covenant, thirty feet long, thirty feet wide, and thirty feet high. Solomon overlaid the interior of the temple with pure gold. He made in front of the sanctuary a cedar altar, overlaid it with gold, and looped it with golden chains. The entire temple was overlaid with gold so that it was completely covered with it; the whole altar before the sanctuary was also overlaid with gold!

In the sanctuary were two cherubim (angels), each fifteen feet high, made of olive wood. Each wing of a cherub measured seven and a half feet so that the space from wing tip to wing tip of each was fifteen feet. The cherubim were identical in size and shape, and each was exactly fifteen feet high. The cherubim were placed in the inmost part of the temple, with their wings spread wide, so that one wing of each cherub touched a side wall while the other wing, pointing toward the middle of the room, touched the corresponding wing of the second cherub. The cherubim, too, were overlaid with gold.

After the temple was completed, all Israel gathered for the opening ceremonies. The priests of Israel brought in the Ark of the Covenant, which was a golden box that held the the two stones on which the 10 Commandments were written for Moses. The Ark was placed under the giant Cherubim, who symbolized heaven’s care for God’s covenant with Israel.

Solomon stood before all the people of Israel and dedicated the temple to God in prayer. After his prayer, he blessed the people of Israel with words that help us understand the importance of this holy place in the life of the Jewish people:

“Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not a single word has gone unfulfilled of the entire generous promise he made through his servant Moses. May the LORD, our God, be with us as he was with our fathers and may he not forsake us nor cast us off. May he draw our hearts to himself, that we may follow him in everything and keep the commands, statutes, and ordinances which he enjoined on our fathers. May this prayer I have offered to the LORD, our God, be present to him day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and of his people Israel as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know the LORD is God and there is no other. You must be wholly devoted to the LORD, our God, observing his statutes and keeping his commandments, as on this day.”

In this, true worship was established in Jerusalem and the temple was understood to be a lighthouse to shine among all nations. The temple was understood to be a symbol of God’s fulfilled promises to Israel and a sign of his future faithfulness. It was the center of true religion in the ancient world. The message behind the construction of the temple is one we need to learn carefully. When the offering plate is passed around at church, many people throw in their leftover change. That collection is our opportunity to offer our own lives to God to support His Church and honor His Name.

What did David and Solomon put in the offering plate in their day? They put in great stones for a foundation, cedar trees for walls that would never rot, gold to cover every item in the temple and much more. Not only did they sacrifice their wealth to the Lord’s honor, but they did so in a way that would last. They did not throw in a few wrinkled dollars or some change left in their pockets after spending all the rest on their own desires. They gave all to God and built a place of worship that was fitting for Him.

However, when we return to consider Solomon as he foreshadows Jesus Christ, we see many wonderful things in the building of the temple. Solomon built an awesome temple, but Jesus built a greater temple. The temple of Solomon was built with expensive stones, wood and gold. The temple Christ built is made of people: apostles, prophets, martyrs, saints, virgins and more. The temple of Solomon was paid for with the money that poured in from the nations and was stored up by his father. The temple Christ built was paid for with the sacrifice of His own life. The temple of Solomon lasted for hundreds of years. The temple Christ built will last forever.

To be sure, Solomon’s glory reaches beyond all the kings of the ancient world, but is a mere shadow when compared to the glory of Christ.

We have thus moved from the beginning of the world to the construction God’s house in Jerusalem. Can you tell the story thus far?

Memory Work

Directions: Read each date and event and recite it several times. By daily repetition, thoroughly memorize these events. Memorize them using your complete chart so that you can “see” the chart in your mind.

  • 4000 BC –   750 BC   Ancient World
  • 4000 BC  Creation of the World
  • 3500 BC   Ancient Sumeria Begins
  • 3000 BC   Ancient Egypt Begins
  • 2950 BC – 2000 BC Life of Noah
  • 2000 BC – 1780 BC  Life of Abraham
  • 1450 BC – 1410 BC  Hebrew Exodus
  • 1200 BC   Trojan War
  • 1000 BC – 960 BC  Life of King David
  • circa 960 BC  The Temple of Solomon
  • 750 BC –   500 AD  Classical World
  • 500 AD – 1500 AD  Medieval World
  • 1500 AD – Present    Modern World

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