Houses.

Christianity, Religion

“In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’…Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house… He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” ‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭7:7, 11, 13‬

“In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord…
…And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it.”

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭6:1, 38‬ ‭

“Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished his entire house.”

‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭7:1‬ 

In 2 Samuel 7 we encounter one of the most crucial passages of the Hebrew Bible: the establishment of the Davidic Covenant. This passage details one of the most significant advances in God’s salvific plan for humanity, as it is from the dynasty that God promises to David that the Messiah would come from. 

Repeatedly throughout 2 Samuel 7 the word “house” is mentioned, and there is significance to this. Before God reveals His plan to David, He reminds David that He has resided a tent since delivering Israel out of Egypt. Though God’s residence has been a tent—the Tabernacle—He has never once asked any of Israel’s leaders—David included—to build Him a permanent house, a “house made of cedar.” God’s priority was establishing Israel, not having a house built for Himself. 

God’s reminding David that He doesn’t have a house is juxtaposed with the revelation God gives to David; that God is going to build David into a “house,” or a dynasty.  Just as was the case with establishing Israel, God cared more about building up David’s house than He did His own. When we consider all the messianic implications of the House of David—going all the way back to the promises made to Eve in the Garden, and to Abraham in Genesis 12, and Judah in Genesis 49–we realize that in many ways, what the House of David represents is more important than a permanent structure for God to reside in. We see God’s selfless nature on display—it was more important to God to further progress His plan to redeem humanity than for Him to have His own house built. The salvation of mankind was more important than a temple. 

With the covenant with David enacted, David’s line does what God told David it would do. David’s son, Solomon, builds a house for God in Jerusalem, and the temple is completed in seven years. We are told that the temple is a marvelous structure, beautifully decorated with Edenic imagery, and represents God’s residence with His people. The building of the temple represents the peak of Solomon’s relationship with God. 

Immediately after we are told that Solomon’s construction of the temple took seven years, we are told that construction of his palace took thirteen years. Solomon took nearly double the amount of time to build his own palace that he took to build the dwelling place of God. Herein lies the tragedy of Solomon: he was a man who began his reign as king with immense zeal for God, but he allowed the power and trappings of power corrupt him. Solomon lost sight of what was important, and in his actions he elevated himself above God. Solomon’s actions with the temple and his palace represent the exact opposite of then selflessness that God exhibited when God built David into a house before His own. Solomon falls greatly; he entered into political alliances with Egypt and other nations, he married foreign women, and he worshipped false foreign gods. As if all of that were not bad enough, Solomon began using slave labor to complete building throughout the kingdom—slaves conscripted from among his own people. Solomon became so hungry for power that he began to enslave his fellow Israelites. It is no wonder that the biblical authors began to describe Solomon as they did the Pharaoh in Egypt who enslaved their ancestors. Where God demonstrated selflessness to be able to enact a plan to save humanity, Solomon became so corrupted that he enslaved his countrymen. 

The Davidic Covenant is important because it shows God’s selflessness and faithfulness. It shows that God was advancing His plan to save humanity, and that He was continuing to keep the promises made to Eve, Abraham, and Judah. The selflessness God demonstrated by establishing David’s house before having His house built is a small preview of the selflessness demonstrated by Christ; Christ also was more concerned about redeeming humanity and freeing them from sin, so much so that He died to make it possible.  

Praise God for His faithfulness and selflessness. Seek to live a life that reflects those same qualities. Learn from the failures of Solomon. 

Artwork: “Song of David,” Marc Chagall, c. 1956

Cautionary Tale.

Christianity, Religion

“…his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father… So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.” I Kings 11:4, 6

The Books of I and II Kings are challenging to read for they recount the downfall of Israel into exile and captivity as a result of repeated disobedience to God. In these books we see the Kingdom divided into two separate kingdoms, Israel and Judah, and the books trace the spiritual state of each kingdom by examining the spiritual nature of their respective rulers. The northern kingdom of Israel endured many wicked kings, and as a result plunged headfirst into idolatry and pagan worship. The southern kingdom, Judah, had a few righteous kings who attempted to right the spiritual course of the kingdom, but the many wicked kings who ruled the southern kingdom undid the influence of these godly men. Ultimately, both kingdoms paid the price for turning away from God; Israel was conquered by Assyria around 721 BC, and the Babylonians conquered Judah in 586 BC. When Judah was defeated, the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple and deported a large portion of the population to Babylon. This is one of the most crucial moments in Hebrew history.

The phrase “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” occurs again and again throughout I and II Kings when describing the various rulers of Israel and Judah. The authors of I and II Kings include this line so that the readers understand the rulers were wicked men who did not seek God, and in turn, caused the people to turn further away from God.  One of the first instances of this “did what was evil” theme occurred in I Kings 11 concerning King Solomon.

Solomon had been, to this point, one of the greatest of Israel’s kings; he was second only to his father, David. Solomon ruled over Israel before the kingdom was divided, and his reign was marked by peace and prosperity. At the beginning of his reign, Solomon was a man who earnestly sought after God, a righteous man. God appeared to Solomon not once, but twice, and blessed Solomon with wisdom, fortune, and fame—the likes of which had never been seen. Due to his great zeal for the Lord, Solomon was given the high duty and privilege of building the Temple in Jerusalem—the “dwelling” place where God’s glory would reside among His people. In everything he did, Solomon sought God, and he served God. He lived as his father David had lived, and he was a model for all future Israelite kings to follow. If only the story ended here, but it doesn’t. There is much more to learn from Solomon in his downfall.

As he became increasingly wealthy and famous, Solomon’s heart and mind began to wander. He began to stray from the God that he loved and whom he loved to serve. As the text says, “his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God.” Solomon began to put other things before God, and he began to seek his own pleasure and satisfaction above seeking God.  He became focused on the things of this world—fame, fortune, and the acquisition thereof.  But Solomon’s sins were not limited to his idolatrous pursuits of fame and fortune; he began to break God’s Law.  He married pagan women—ones that God prohibited the Israelites from marrying—and Solomon fell deeper into sin. These pagan wives brought with them their false religions and ceremonies and Solomon began to partake in them. He started to build altars to these false gods and to offer sacrifices to them. Solomon tolerated and encouraged the practice of false religions in Israel. The very man who once sought God and built the house in which God dwelt was now offering pagan sacrifices to false gods on altars that he also built.  Solomon’s father, David, may have committed physical adultery, but Solomon was now committing spiritual adultery.  This was the path that future kings of Israel and Judah would follow. The entire future of Israelite history was being embodied in Solomon and his actions.

The irony and the tragedy in this is that Solomon knew better; “God gave Solomon wisdom, exceedingly deep insight, and understanding beyond measure, like the sand on the seashore,”(1 Kings 4:29).  By all accounts, Solomon was the wisest man ever to live, and this wisdom came directly from God. Despite this, Solomon still took his focus off of God; he allowed his mind and heart to be led astray. He stopped serving God and started worshipping himself. His actions had severe consequences: it was Solomon’s unfaithfulness that sparked a chain of events that resulted in the division of the kingdom, which would lead ultimately to conquest and exile.

Solomon had everything, and he forsook it; this is the lesson we must learn. If he can fall so significantly, so too can we. We must learn from Solomon’s mistakes; we must not become so enamored with the pursuits of our own pleasures that we turn from God. We must make the pursuit of God our joy. We must seek Him in everything we do, and we must submit to Him daily.  We must seek to do what is right in the sight of the Lord.

Art Credit: Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, “Solomon Worshiping a Pagan God” c. 1695-1700 (https://www.dia.org/art/collection/object/solomon-worshiping-pagan-god-63908)