Study Guide

1 Kings The Temple And The Mountains

The Temple And The Mountains

Solomon's temple is more than just a fancy-pants house of worship. It's meant to be the house of God, "a place [where he can] dwell forever" (8:13). In fact, God promises that he'll "dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people" (6:13) if they're righteous. However, Solomon later acknowledges: "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" (8:27). In other words, "As great as this place is, I know it's nothing compared go God's infinite awesomeness." Still, God appreciates Solomon's effort, even if (in god terms) it's more of a dollhouse than a mansion. He comes to the temple when "the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord" in the form of a big black cloud (8:11). And he promises that "my eyes and my heart will be there for all time" as long as faithful Israelites like Solomon try to make contact with him (9:3).

Unfortunately, the temple's glory—like Solomon's kingdom—doesn't last. Under Rehoboam's watch, Shishak of Egypt plunders its treasures (14:25). Thereafter, Israel doesn't seem to take full advantage of having God's house just down the street. Subsequent books in the Bible say that later kings defiled it (for example, see 2 Kings 21:1-9), and it's ultimately burned (along with the rest of Jerusalem) by King Nebuchadnezzar's armies in 2nd Kings chapter 25. Israel remains temple-less for almost one hundred years until King Cyrus allows the Jews to build a new temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23).

So how does an Israelite commune with God without a temple? No problem: It seems like mountains are almost as good. Before the temple is built, Solomon and the rest of the Israelites sacrifice in "high places" (3:2-3), and God manifests his power on both Mount Carmel (18:19-20) and Mount Horeb (19:8-12), both of which are considered sacred to this day in many religious traditions.