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1 Kings 8:1-11 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 43 secs

The Ark and the Temple; 1 Kings 8:1-11


One of the great studies in Scripture is the presence of God in relation to the human race, from the garden of Eden where God was walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in Genesis 2 all the way to the end of Revelation 21 where there is no temple and God is living on the earth with man—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and this is the eternal future plan. So from beginning to end we see God with man and we go through various stages. One of the most important of these is in the temple in the Old Testament because it is there that God dwells in the midst of His people Israel, first in the tabernacle and then in the temple itself.


What we have seen is that Solomon has gained control of the empire that David had established, and once he has organised things, his structures, divides the kingdom into various administrative districts, gets his key people in place, then he turns his attention to two major construction projects. The first was the building of the temple and then the building of his own palace. It takes almost twenty years to complete both of these projects. In 1 Kings 8:1 about eleven months has gone by since the completion of the temple. He waits eleven months until he comes to the right feast day before he dedicates the temple. He makes sure that it is done at the right time. There are some tremendous lessons in chapter eight, one of which has to do with worship: the protocol of worship, the importance of doing everything in a certain kind of appropriate way because we are not coming to worship somebody who just lives next door, somebody who is on the same level that we are.


What we see in this whole episode with the ark being brought into the temple and all of the pomp and circumstance that is associated with it is that it is not pomp and circumstance and ceremony for the sake of pomp and circumstance and ceremony. A lot of people whenever they see certain kinds of ceremony, certain kinds of formal national ceremonies that involve heads of state, don't understand where all of that protocol comes from and why it is important. And if they do that for a head of state then of course they would do that for God who is the creator God of the universe. So behind the protocol there are the details of the Law of Moses. There is the law related to the ark of the covenant and its transportation and care. There are laws related to the priesthood, laws related to the basic structure of the tabernacle and the temple, but based on that framework we see that there is a room for initiative on the part of the individual to develop worship apart from divine revelation; not a contrasted one, but what is meant is that when we go into the Old Testament and look at Exodus and the Mosaic Law we see the detailed descriptions for how everything in the tabernacle has to be constructed. David did the same thing. Apparently he had been given revelation from God about how the different aspects of the temple were to be constructed, and it gets into certain levels of minutia; not every single thing but it is more than just a general idea of having a nice building. The building has specific dimensions and there are certain kinds of fabric the cloth has to be made out of, and certain colours of thread that have to be used for embroidering the cherubim onto the veil. There are certain kinds of wood that are supposed to be used and the gold is then laid over the wood. So there are these specific details that are given because these elements are all intended to communicate something. Not even Moses or David or the priests understood how every detail would foreshadow something in the person and work of Christ. Once it came to the incarnation then some things probably became very clear and their significance was clear, but what we come away with is that there is something very important about how people worship.


Notice, there were all those details on the Old Testament related to the construction of the tabernacle, the uniforms of the priests, every detail, but there is no instruction on writing hymns, writing music, on how the choirs or the orchestras that they had would be put together. This is developed once there is function in a general framework and is an outgrowth of that as there is focus on the Lord. So there is room for development within the boundaries that are clearly set by the ritual of the Old Testament.


The other thing that we will see in this chapter is looking at Solomon's prayer of dedication that begins in verse 22. It is based on Scripture. The whole prayer is a tremendous example of how a believer can meditate on revealed promises and principles in God's Word and then letting the Word of God be the structure and the vocabulary of the prayers that we pray to God. And in that it is a tremendous example of the faith-rest drill, because what Solomon is doing in this prayer is going back to what God said and promised, both in terms of discipline and in terms of blessing in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-30. He is restating that back to God, claiming those promises and holding God to them. So as we go through that prayer it is a tremendous example of how to pray, a tremendous example of how to work through the faith-rest drill.

This chapter starts off after Solomon has completed the temple, and it is time now to bring the ark of the covenant up from the city of David which is in Zion. 1 Kings 8:1 NASB "Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers' {households} of the sons of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the city of David, which is Zion." The city of David is a rather small city. The term Zion as we read in different places in Scriptures kind of moves around. Once the temple is built on the temple mount then the temple mount becomes Mount Zion. But Zion also is a term that in some places is used to refer to the whole city. Later as the city expands the ridge which is to the west of the old city of David is then called Mount Zion. So we have to pay attention to the context and the historical period as to just exactly what is being referred to as Mount Zion. What is referred to in 1 Kings 8 when David had brought the ark into the city it is located somewhere in the old city of David and is not up on the temple mount because of all the construction that is going to take place there and which has taken place there.

The significance of the ark of the covenant and why this is important. The ark of the covenant is first constructed by the Israelites at Mount Sinai and this is described in Exodus 25:10-22. Because of its close association with God it is referred to as the ark of God 34 times in the Old Testaments. Because it is related to the Mosaic covenant, one copy of which is stored inside the box, it is referred to 31 times as the ark of the covenant of Yahweh. So the emphasis here is on the presence of God. The Psalms frequently talk about how God is enthroned upon the wings of the cherub, and this is pictured as the throne of God upon earth. Solomon refers to this in his prayer. Exodus 25:10 NASB "They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high." That would be about 45 inches long and 27 inches wide and 27 inches high. It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. The wood represented the humanity of Christ, the gold the deity of Christ. Everything in the tabernacle says something about the person or the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything about the ark is specified in the Mosaic Law.

Exodus 25:8 NASB "Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them." This word "sanctuary" comes from the same root that holiness comes from; it has to do with that which is set apart. This is a key concept in worship, a key concept in the Christian life. The Hebrew word qadosh has to do with that which is set apart for the purpose of God. There is something distinct about this area because it is for the worship and the service of the Lord. It is not something that is every-day so we don't treat it with the same level of informality or casualness that we treat everything else. The tent of meeting and all of the instruments there are all qadosh, sanctified as unto the Lord, because it is here, Exodus 25:22 NASB "There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel."

The next point deals with the things that were placed in the ark: the tables of the Law, Aaron's rod that budded, and then a golden jar that contained manna. Upon Moses' order after the rebellion at Meribah Aaron was instructed to put two quarts of manna in a jar and place it before the testimony in the tabernacle as a memorial to God's provision. Hebrews 9:4 adds that this jar rested inside of the ark, so perhaps there was a time when it was kept in the ark and another before the ark. In 1 Kings 8:9 NASB "There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the sons of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt." Apparently the manna and Aaron's rod had been lost.

There were specific regulations in the Mosaic Law regarding travel with the ark. These are given in Numbers 4:5, 6; Deuteronomy 10:8; 31:25. It was to be covered in a specific way. Only Levites could carry the ark. They weren't to touch the ark; they were to take the poles that were permanently kept through the rings on the ark and carry it by means of them. When travelling through the wilderness the ark always went before the people. God always went before the people. The pillar of cloud by day and the fire by night indicated His presence.

When they entered into the land (Joshua 3:6-17) the priests took the ark and walked toward the river Jordan. At that time it was in the spring and a very broad river. They had to walk right to the edge while the water was still rushing by and they were going to take that true step of faith, putting out their foot, and as their foot lowered the water lowered. When the foot hit the ground the ground was dry and the river wasn't running anymore. So it was a test of their faith and trust in God to do exactly what He said, to walk by faith and not by sight. They were also told in Joshua chapter three that the body of the Israelites were not to come within 2000 cubits (3,500 feet) of the ark of the covenant. So the ark was to go first into the river, cross the river and come out the other side before the body of the Israelites would then follow.

What happened to the ark during the conquest? The only time that it is mentioned per se in the rest of the book of Joshua is when they marched around the walls of Jericho. That is the last time the ark is specifically mentioned in Joshua. At the time of Solomon 444 years have gone by since they entered into the land, so what had been going on with the ark?

From the period of the Judges to Samuel the ark is located at the city of Bethel which was situated about 30 north of Jerusalem. The tabernacle was there and this is where people came to sacrifice and where they celebrated the feasts. There is only one reference in Judges to the ark.

By Samuel's time the ark has been moved north to the village of Shiloh. We only know this because of the incident that occurs in 1 Samuel chapter four when the ark was captured by the Philistines—1 Samuel 4:3 where the people were trying to use the ark like a good luck charm. Then the ark is taken by the Philistines in 1 Samuel 5:1ff. Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands {were} cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him." What God is showing in the first instance is that He and He alone is worthy of worship and all of these false gods will eventually bow down to Him. In the second instance what He is showing is that the false gods of the Philistines specifically can't think and can't act. The people were somewhat upset and the verse 6 says that the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them. Nine times in this section the writer uses this phrase "the hand of the Lord," and it is a figure of speech for the power of God. The people recognised that the negative circumstances they were experiences came directly from God. [6] "Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor all who enter Dagon's house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day. Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories." What most scholars believe is that this was an outbreak of bubonic plague which was divinely instigated. This would be supported by the fact that when the Philistines eventually send the ark back they make these little golden tumors to imitate the tumors that they had, and golden mice. Rodents, of course, have flees that spread bubonic plague.  

The ark goes from Ashdod to Gath to Ekron, and at Ekron the people are quite dismayed that they now have the ark of the covenant, and they believe that the God of Israel is going to kill them. They have a convocation of all the five lords of the Philistines and implore them to send the ark back to Israel. So they are going to return the ark, and the total we are told in 6:1 was that it was in the land of the Philistines for six years.

There are three principles that we learn from this.

1.  God is never defeated. God is in control. The Israelites were defeated because of their carnality, but God wasn't defeated. So God was demonstrating by what he is doing among the Philistines that He is very much alive, very much involved, very powerful, and that He wasn't defeated, only the Jews were defeated. God's people, because of sin, may be defeated.

2.  God is greater than anything in history. Whatever is thrown against Him by whatever system, by whatever civilisation, by whatever philosophical system, God is always greater.

3.  God doesn't need man to protect or defend Him.

Then the Philistines decide to make a test just in case this isn't really a supernatural thing. So they make a new cart and take two milch cows, cows not trained to pull a cart. So when two of them are taken that have never been hitched together the normal tendency is going to be for one to go one way and the other another way. To complicate matters they have calves that haven't been weaned, so they want to go back to the calves. Instead, they work in perfect harmony and they take the cart with the ark to Beth-shemesh where the people rejoice to see the ark returned. 1 Samuel 6:13 NASB "Now {the people of} Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley, and they raised their eyes and saw the ark and were glad to see {it.}… [15] The Levites took down the ark of the LORD and the box that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone; and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices that day to the LORD." Notice that they made sure that Levites handled the ark; they did it according to appropriate protocol.

1 Sam 6:19, 20 NASB "He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. The men of Beth-shemesh said, 'Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?'" It is thought that there is a textual problem here and that the number is really 70 men. The Beth-shemites are then quite fearful so they send the ark to Kiriath-jearim. The ark stays there until David comes to get the ark in 2 Samuel 6:6, 7. It is during this time that various Psalms are written and we see the beginning of choirs and the orchestras and the singing of songs in relation to the ark and the enthronement of God upon the ark. That is our connection to the doctrine of worship. It is after three months that David then transports the ark to Mount Zion—Psalm 3:4; 9:11; 2 Samuel 7. The ark stays there even though during the Absolom revolt Abiathar wants to take the ark with David, but David insists that it stays there. It stays on Mount Zion near where the temple will be, though the altar and the tabernacle are north at Gibeon. When the temple is completed—1 Kings 8:1—Solomon transfers the ark from the city of Zion up to the temple mount.