Troublesome Topic: The Dedication of the Temple


Years earlier David wrote a psalm that was intended to be sung by the choirs at the dedication of the temple. We know it as Psalm 30. Another psalm was written for the occasion probably by a priest or Levite as the construction of the temple was drawing to a close. We call it Psalm 132.

I believe that, in preparation for the dedication of the temple, Solomon taught the choir directors how to direct the songs he wrote the way he wanted them directed. The choirs practiced till they had all their songs memorized. That we know of, there was no such thing as written music back then, and all musicians would have learned new music quickly, but I imagine the musicians who were to play at the dedication of the temple practiced until they could play those songs in their sleep.

The Dedication Ceremony

The dedication of the temple created what we call a spiritual high for Solomon and for his people. Everyone was excited and there was great unity. It was a huge event and people from every corner of the nation came to it (I Kings 8:65). It was an event that lasted for two weeks (I Kings 8:65)!

The offerings included 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep (I Kings 8:63)! That would require 8,571 sheep being sacrificed each day, and 1571 cattle each day! The altar of sacrifice was too small for so many sacrifices, so Solomon had the priests consecrate the courtyard so they could offer sacrifices there on temporary altars. Think of the human element required to pull this off. Consider how much firewood, how much water for washing, and how many man-hours were required for this event.

We are not told how many singers were in each choir, but it was probably a large number because the choirs were accompanied by 120 priests who blew trumpets made of ram’s horns, as well as other musicians playing other instruments (II Chron 5:12). For more on the use of two choirs see my lesson entitled Parallelism and the use of two choirs. The people loved the choirs and the music.

Everything about this new place of worship was impressive, awe-inspiring, and energizing.

The Main Event

The most important activity planned for what we presume would have been either the first day or the final day was the transfer of the ark of the covenant from where David had last placed it (somewhere in the part of the city called Zion, possibly in a special room in his palace because David lived in the sector called Zion and that is why it was called “the city of David.”) For this momentous event Solomon called together the leaders of all the tribes of Israel to help him accompany the ark from its old resting place to its new resting place. By so doing, they were symbolizing the transfer of God’s special presence into its new “house” (the term for temple was “house”). Of course the priests carried the ark in the proper fashion, but the king, his officials and the leaders of each tribe accompanied it in a grand and joyous procession.

God’s Response

In their worship of the Lord that day they followed a carefully rehearsed plan, but God interrupted their plan and filled the temple with a cloud that represented His presence. From the way the accounts of I Kings chapter 8 and II Chronicles chapters 5, 6 and 7 read, we cannot be sure exactly when the cloud filled the temple. The II Chronicles account mentions the cloud twice (5:14 and 7:1), but it probably only happened once. The important thing is that when they brought the ark of the covenant to its new place, when they prayed, sang and offered sacrifices, the glory of the Lord filled His new “house.” The priests could not carry out their assigned duties while the cloud was there. (II Chron 5:13-14).

The cloud reminded them of three things from their history.

1)It was similar to the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that had guided them out of Egypt and through the desert. When the cloud stayed in one place the people of God should not move; when the cloud rose and began to move, the people of God needed to move with it. We should be willing to live in the same way.

2) It was similar to the dark yet fiery cloud that covered the top of Mount Sinai when God gave Moses the conditions of the covenant and its other details. I think the description fits a very dark cloud with lots of lightning bolds flashing inside it. While the dark cloud over Mount Sinai caused fear in the people, their fear was mostly because they knew God is a holy God and yet they lacked holiness. At the dedication of the temple Solomon’s comment about that cloud makes it sound like it was similar to that described at Mt Sinai. In I Kings 8:12 and II Chronicles 6:1 we read that Solomon said, “YHVH said He would dwell in a dark cloud.” That being the case, the cloud would have had lightning bolts flashing back and forth inside of it. No wonder the priests could not stay in place and carry out their duties.

3) It was similar to the cloud that had filled the tabernacle when it was dedicated. In both instances, the presence of this cloud proved that God was accepting the place they had built for him, even though no building is capable of containing God. He was indicating that He recognized their efforts and would indeed meet with them in that place. It was His way of clearly saying, “I will be here for you.”

II Chron 7:1 also tells us that fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice that was on the altar at that time. This showed that God accepted their sacrifices.

Solomon’s prayer of dedication, recorded in II Chron chapter 6, was beautiful and fitting. This is one more thing that shows he was a godly man. We will talk later about when that changed.

The next lesson is: Solomon’s Participation in Worship at the Temple