We skip chapters to move into Kings today, but it’s useful to recap the history.
David virtually passes sentence upon himself and his house in 2Sa 12:5-6, “As the LORD lives [an oath], the man who has done this deserves to die.” (NRSV)
When Nathan says to him, “Now the LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die” he’s not absolving him of adultery and murder per se (as the JST would take it), as much as “look, you’re forgiven to the extent that the Lord is not going to strike you down right here and now, which is what you said should be done to someone who has done what you did.”
But he also says ” the sword shall never depart from your house” and “the child that is born to you shall die.” So while David does not die, four of his children do, and several of them by the sword, which brings us to the issue of Solomon and succession.
What’s the problem with filial succession and kingship? If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, Game of Thrones, or Stardust, you might know the answer to this. If there are multiple contenders (usually sons) for the throne, they have a tendency to kill each other off in order to assure their own succession. Or, once they ARE king, they kill off all their siblings or the descendants of rivals, people who might have a motive to kill you. This happens repeatedly in history, in the Bible, and in the Book of Mormon (thinking of Ether, here.)
David’s son Absalom kills his brother Amnon and attempts to kill “all the kings sons” in 2Sa 13:27-30. Absalom begins an active campaign against his father, to set himself up as king, in 15:1-12. He is so successful that David must flee in 15:13-16:14. Absalom is eventually killed by Joab, David’s general.
David’s son Adonijah is the crown prince, but Nathan and Bathsheba take advantage of David’s old age to make Solomon king instead. They “remind” him of a promise he apparently never made about Solomon’s succession. Thus, while Adonijah has already started to step into the kingly role, David has Solomon anointed king and sat on his throne. All of Adonijah’s supporters flee, and Adonijah himself takes refuge upon the horns of the temple altar to prevent himself from being killed. David dies, and Solomon officially takes over. Adonijah, meanwhile, starts scheming to undermine and replace Solomon, so Solomon has him killed. David’s priest, Abiathar, had supported Adonijah and flees, so Solomon replaces him with Zadok the priest.
This brings us up to the chapters today.
Dedication of the Temple
Solomon builds the temple in 7 years (1Ki 6:38), and holds a 7-day dedication festival (1Ki 8:65.) The numbers for the building and festival are probably rounded, and/or exaggerated, as “the rate of sacrifice (even assuming non-stop activity) would have been one oxen and six sheep every minute.”- Jewish Study Bible.
So then, why would they do this, at least with the 7’s? Much about temple construction, dedication, and perhaps ritual in the ancient Near East involved the number 7. If Genesis 1 is a priestly view of creation, and creation is seen as God’s cosmic temple, it is only natural that it would be portrayed by the priests in a 7-day structure. See in particular my rough post at Times&Seasons and chapter 9 (Google Books) “The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Relate to the Cosmic Temple Inauguration” in John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.
One note of interest to LDS is that Solomon offers a dedicatory prayer at the temple alter, stretching from 8:22 to 8:54. He begins his prayer standing at the alter with upraised hands, and finishes kneeling at the alter with upraised hands.
Among the Israelites and other Near Eastern cultures, one of the most common gestures for prayer was to raise the hands while standing or kneeling. We have archeological representations of this on statuary and royal inscriptions, as well as in many texts inside and outside the Bible. It has been suggested that this posture of upraised hands physically represented the “clean hands and pure heart” required for entrance into the temple, according to Psalm 24:3-4.
For Israelites, the heart represented the center of thought, emotion, and desire while the hands symbolized actions. Raising the hands exposes the heart and palms of the hands to God, inviting him to examine and judge our actions and intents. The NET Bible translates “he that hath clean hands and a pure heart” in Psalm 24:4 as “the one whose deeds [actions] are blameless, and whose motives are pure…” Isaiah 1:15 offers a good counter example. “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood, your fingers full of iniquity.” Here, God refuses to grant or hear the prayer because of the evil actions or intents of the person offering the prayer.
Other examples of prayer with upraised hands in the Old Testament include Exodus 9:29, 33, 1 Kings 8:22, 54, 2 Chronicles 6:12-13, 29, Ezra 9:5, Job 11:13-14 and Psalm 141:1-2. Prayer with upraised hands continues to be the norm in the New Testament, as evidenced by 1 Timothy 2:8. “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy [that is, clean or guiltless] hands, without wrath and doubting.”
In the Book of Mormon, we find the apostate Zoramites spreading forth their hands to pray in Alma 31:14. “Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top [of the Rameumptom], and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice…” Earlier in the Book of Mormon, bound and forced to watch believers burned to death, Amulek suggests to Alma in Alma 14:10 that they stretch forth their hands to save the believers, perhaps referring to stretching forth their hands in prayer.
In the Pearl of Great Price, we find Abraham bound on an altar, about to be sacrificed by an idolatrous priest. In distress and near death, he lifts up his voice in prayer (see Abraham 1:15). Note that in Facsimile 1, Abraham lies upon the altar, the priest standing nearby with the knife. Abraham’s hands are raised up in front of his face, apparently in the posture of prayer. The Lord hears Abraham’s prayer, and sends an angel to save him.
I have a bibliographic section on temple prayer on my temple website, but as a general starting point (and like many things, I think it has value but also disagree with it in spots), I recommend Matthew Brown’s The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple
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