The building of the temple was considered as one of the major accomplishments of Solomon’s life. It was in the fourth year of his reign over Israel that “he began to build the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 6:1). Seven years later, that amazing structure was completed (1 Kings 6:38). That is correct: it took seven years to build the temple. The historical date for its completion was about B.C. 967, and it was located at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1).
In terms of its size, the temple was considerably larger than the tabernacle which the Israelites erected at Mount Sinai in the days of Moses. Solomon’s temple was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits tall (1 Kings 6:2,3). If we count a cubit as one and one-half feet, the dimensions would have been ninety feet by thirty feet (27.5 meters by 9.1 meters) and its height would have been forty-five feet (13.7 meters).
The work force employed to build the house of Jehovah was enormous. Under an agreement Solomon made with Hiram, who was king of Tyre, Hiram and his servants provided and transported cedar and cypress logs to Israel for the temple (1 Kings 5:6-10). In addition, Solomon raised a labor force in Israel, assigned men to carry burdens or quarry stones in the mountain, and set up supervisors of these activities. There were more than one hundred fifty thousand workers involved, perhaps more (1 Kings 5:13-16).
What spiritual lessons can we learn from the temple and the efforts made to construct it?
It was David, Solomon’s father, who originally proposed the building of a structure in which to place the ark of God (2 Samuel 7). By Jehovah’s wisdom, the task of building the temple was given to Solomon instead of David. What sounded like a sensible plan to David (for him to be the builder) was not what the Lord had in mind. We are reminded that God’s approach and thinking often are different from those of humans (Isaiah 55:8,9).
God gave Noah specific instructions about how to build an ark (Genesis 6). In the same way, He gave Moses a pattern for the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:8,9). God likewise provided a pattern/plan for Solomon’s temple: “Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the vestibule, its houses, its treasuries, its upper chambers, its inner chambers, and the place of the mercy seat; and the plans for all that he had by the Spirit . . . ‘All this,’ said David, ‘the LORD made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans’” (1 Chronicles 28:11,12,19). Would God expect Solomon to comply with the instructions of His revealed plans for the temple? Of course. He expects the same of us today, calling on us to hold fast the pattern of sound words (2 Timothy 1:13).
Solomon was greatly blessed by the work which his father, David, did. Before Solomon put forth a single effort to start the temple’s construction, David’s activities set the stage for Solomon’s work. First of all, David fought and conquered the nations surrounding Israel. Thus, when Solomon came to the throne, it was a time of peace for Israel (1 Kings 5:2-4). There is no indication that Solomon ever engaged in any type of military battle. He did not have to look over his shoulder for an opposing army; instead, he could devote his attention to building the temple.
Another thing David did which greatly benefitted Solomon was he prepared materials which could be used for the temple’s construction (1 Chronicles 22:5; 29:1-3). In doing the Lord’s work, you and I also are blessed by the efforts which others have made in the past or continue to make in the present (John 4:35-38).
In connection with Solomon building the Lord’s house, God gave the king and Israel the conditional promise to dwell among His people and not forsake them (1 Kings 6:11-13). What was Israel’s part of the bargain? They must walk in God’s commandments. It is no secret that slightly less than four hundred years after the temple was completed, Jehovah destroyed it by the hands of the Babylonian army in B.C. 586 (2 Chronicles 36:15-19). As Jesus noted, the temple was supposed to be “a house of prayer,” but when He was on the earth, it was “a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17).
David proclaimed that his son would build a house for the Lord which would be “exceedingly magnificent, famous, and glorious throughout all countries” (1 Chronicles 22:5). Here is a solemn reminder: a beautiful, material facility cannot cause people to be spiritually-minded or faithful to God. The temple was a magnificent structure, but such a building could not cause people to have a humble heart that was in love with and willing to submit to Jehovah (Deuteronomy 6:5). No physical structure today is the key to a local church’s numerical growth or spiritual maturity. The most important factor in God’s service is people’s heart, not a material building.
At the dedication of the temple, Solomon prayed, charged the Israelites to be loyal to God, and offered an incredible number of animal sacrifices (1 Kings 8:14-65). Excitement was in the air! Faithful service to God must go beyond initial excitement to daily devotion to Him (Luke 9:23). Israel’s history reveals that she struggled to learn that lesson. What about us?
— Roger D. Campbell