Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8 and the Role of the Temple (cont.)

In this conclusion to our series of notes on the Prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8, we are examining the two major themes of this Prayer (and its surrounding narrative): (1) the centralization of worship, and (2) the name of YHWH. Last week, the theme of centralization of worship was discussed; today, we will be looking at the second theme.

The name of YHWH

Throughout the Prayer, there is a strong emphasis on the Temple as the place where God’s name resides—vv. 16-20, 33, 35, 42-44, 48. In this regard, 1 Kings 8 is simply continuing an important theme and motif of the Deuteronomic history. Beginning with the book of Deuteronomy, the idea of a place for God’s name is used to designate the city of Jerusalem (and the specific site of the Temple), and, by extension, the territory/kingdom of Judah as a whole. The presence of His name indicates that YHWH has chosen Judah and Jerusalem for His dwelling-place among His people. For the key references, see Deut 12:11, 21; 14:23-24; 16:2, 6, 11; 26:2; 2 Sam 7:13; 1 Kings 9:3, 7; 11:36; 14:21; 2 Kings 21:4, 7; 23:27.

There are three principal aspects to this emphasis on YHWH’s name that need to be noted:

    1. In ancient Near Eastern thought, a person’s name stands for the person, representing and embodying his/her essential nature and character. I have discussed this in the earlier series “And You Shall Call His Name…”. There was thus a quasi-magical quality to a person’s name; in dealing with a person’s name, one could effect or relate to the actual person. This was especially true in a religious context, when dealing with the name of God.
    2. Along these same lines, the name represents the presence of the person, even when he/she cannot actually be present physically. This is equally true in the case of God. As the Prayer points out repeatedly, though YHWH actually resides in heaven (vv. 27, 30, 32, 34-36, 39, 43, 45, 49), His name resides in the Temple sanctuary.
    3. The presence of a person’s name also serves as a mark of possession or ownership. So the symbolic presence of YHWH’s name is a mark that the Temple belongs to Him; and, not only the Temple, but the sign of possession radiates outward to include the entire city of Jerusalem, the territory of Judah, and indeed the whole Kingdom of Israel. This aspect of the Temple is a sign that the people of Israel belong to YHWH, as His people. And, when the people pray in the direction of the Temple, where His name resides, they are essentially recognizing and acknowledging this fact.

When we turn to the New Testament, and the beliefs and practices of early Christians, we can see that this emphasis on the name of God has been developed and adapted in a number of interesting ways. I would point out three, in particular, that I wish to discuss briefly:

    1. Jesus as God’s chosen representative, who comes and acts “in His name”
    2. The Johannine theme that Jesus, as the Son of God, makes God the Father known to believers in the world—this can specifically be understood in terms of making known the Father’s name.
    3. The importance of the Jesus’ name—specifically for prayer, but also for other aspects of the religious life and experience of believers.

1. The principal Gospel passage(s) that expresses the idea of Jesus as a Divine representative who comes “in YHWH’s name”, involves the tradition of his entry into Jerusalem. This episode occurs in all four Gospels—both in the Synoptics (Mk 11:1-10; Matt 21:1-9; Lk 19:29-38) and the Gospel of John (12:12-15)—and essentially marks the beginning of Jesus’ Passion. In the overall Synoptic narrative, the ‘triumphal entry’ stands at the beginning of a period of teaching and ministry in Jerusalem (Mk 11:12-13:37 par) that precedes the Passion narrative.

In all four accounts of the Entry, the crowd that receives Jesus is recorded as quoting Psalm 118:26:

“Blessed (is) the (one) coming in (the) name of YHWH!”

Though there are slight variations in how this declaration is presented in each account (Mk 11:9; Matt 21:9; Lk 19:38; Jn 12:13), it is clearly part of the underlying historical tradition.

I have discussed this tradition in earlier notes and articles, and will be doing so again in Part 3 of my study on the Sukkot festival. What is most significant is how the quotation of Psalm 118:26 relates to the Messianic identity of Jesus. There were a number of Messianic figure-types current in Jewish thought and expectation, and early Christians ultimately identified Jesus with all of them. I discuss this subject at length, including treatments of the different figure-types, in the series “Yeshua the Anointed”. Regardless of which Messianic figure-type Jesus was seen as fulfilling, the principal idea is that he was God’s chosen (“anointed”) representative, whose presence and activity on earth marked the end of the current Age and the beginning of the New Age for God’s people.

In the Entry episode, it is clearly the royal/Davidic Messiah that is in view (cf. Parts 68 of “Yeshua the Anointed”). In this respect, the use of Psalm 118 is especially appropriate. Even though this Psalm, as one of the Hallel Psalms (113-118), came to be associated with great pilgrimage festivals (esp. Passover and Sukkot), and were sung on those occasions, it is probable that the original context of the Psalm involved the victorious return of the Israelite/Judean king to Jerusalem (after battle). For more on this, cf. my article in the series “The Old Testament and the Gospel Tradition”. Psalm 118:26 is also cited by Jesus himself, in relation to his Messianic identity, in Matt 23:39 / Lk 13:35 (“Q” tradition).

2. The Gospel of John develops the Messianic significance of coming/acting in God’s name in a distinctive way, informed by the Johannine theology (and theological idiom). In the Gospel of John, Jesus is not only the Messiah, he is also the eternal (and pre-existent) Son of God. He was sent to earth from heaven by God the Father, being given a mission from the Father to complete. This mission included speaking and acting in the Father’s name—speaking the Father’s words and doing His works (such as working healing miracles and raising the dead). Like a dutiful son, Jesus follows his father’s example, doing what he sees the Father doing, and saying what he hears the Father saying. Thus Jesus (the Son) truly represents the Father, manifesting His presence and power to people on earth.

Two specific statements by Jesus may be pointed out:

“I have come in the name of my Father…” (5:43)
“the works that I do in my Father’s name, they give witness about me” (10:25)

The Son’s mission and work on earth culminates in his sacrificial death (19:30); all of this is done in the Father’s name, and the death and resurrection (i.e., the exaltation) of the Son serves to give honor/glory to the Father (12:28, note the context of v. 13). This theme finds its fullest development in the great Discourse-Prayer of chapter 17, where Jesus specifically refers to his work in manifesting the Father’s name to believers (vv. 6, 26; cf. also 11-12):

“I made your name shine forth to the (one)s whom you gave to me out of the world” (v. 6)
“and I made known to them your name…” (v. 26)

3. Finally, it is important to consider how, for Christians, the Son’s name came to replace the Father’s name. This is particularly notable in relation to the tradition of prayer by early Christians. Even though believers were still directed to pray so as to give honor to the Father’s name (Matt 6:9 par), at an early point there came to be a strong tradition of praying (to the Father) in Jesus’ name. There is surprisingly little direct evidence for this in the New Testament itself; we see it most clearly in the Gospel of John (in the Last Discourse, 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24, 26), where the tradition is rooted in the Johannine theology and Christology (i.e., the Son’s abiding relationship to the Father). Of particular importance is the idea that the Father will send the Spirit to the disciples/believers in Jesus’ name (14:26); on the sending of the Spirit as the goal (and result) of prayer, cp. the context of Luke 11:13.

Another Johannine theme which is more firmly rooted in the wider Gospel tradition is the idea of the disciples (believers) continuing the (Messianic) mission of Jesus on earth. This goes back to the early tradition of the choosing of the Twelve and their initial mission (Mark 3:13-19; 6:7-13 pars). The disciples were specifically chosen by Jesus, and were allowed to share the same authority (and ‘anointing’) that he possessed, so that they would proclaim the good news (Gospel) and perform healing miracles, etc., in his name. The particular association with Jesus’ name is seen more clearly in the Gospel of Luke (10:17; 24:47; cp. 9:49; 21:9 pars), after which it occurs frequently throughout the book of Acts (3:6, 16; 4:7, 10, 17-18, 30; 5:28, 40-41, etc).

Part of this ministry involved the baptizing of new believers, as a ritual symbol of their belonging to Jesus, and of their participating in the life-giving power of his death and resurrection. One trusts in Jesus’ name (i.e., his identity as the Messiah and Son of God; cf. Acts 2:21, 38; 4:12; John 1:12; 2:23; 3:18), and so is baptized in that name (Matt 28:19; Acts 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; 22:16, etc). Everywhere that believers work or gather together, they are representatives of Jesus, and so act in his name (Matt 18:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 5:4; Col 3:17, etc). The identity of belonging to Christ, conferred and realized through the baptism ritual, governs and informs all aspects of our life as believers.

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8 and the Role of the Temple

Having completed our recent series of notes on the Prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8, set on the occasion of the inauguration of the Jerusalem Temple, it is worth considering the broader interpretive implication of the two major themes of this Prayer (and its surrounding narrative): (1) the centralization of worship, and (2) the name of YHWH.

The Centralization of Worship

An important religious and theological issue in 1 Kings 8 is the centralization of worship for the Israelite people. By this is meant the central place of Jerusalem and the Temple for the religion of the kingdom of Israel/Judah, a principle rooted in the developing royal theology of the kingdom period. Religious unity is essential for unifying the kingdom, and the presence of the Temple was a focal point for this goal of unity. The centrality of Jerusalem (and the Temple) is a fundamental theme of the entire Deuteronomic history, being established in the book of Deuteronomy itself (cf. 12:5-6ff; 14:23-25; 16:2ff; 17:8ff; 26:2; 31:11), but naturally coming into much greater prominence in the book of Kings. In 1 Kings 8, this centrality is expressed two different ways:

    • In the surrounding narrative (vv. 1-11, 62-66), people from all over the kingdom come to Jerusalem, to the Temple precincts, for the festival of Sukkot/Booths, according to the directive given in Deut 31:10-11ff. Sukkot is one of the three great pilgrimage festivals, during which all adult males were required to “appear before YHWH” (Exod 23:14, 17; 34:23); in the Deuteronomic tradition, this meant traveling to “the place which YHWH will choose” (16:16, etc)—that is, to Jerusalem.
    • Within the Prayer (vv. 12-61), the Jerusalem Temple becomes the focus of the people’s prayers. Regardless of where the people are throughout the kingdom (or even far away in exile), they are to pray in the direction of the Temple.

It is interesting to consider how the religious significance and symbolism of the Temple developed in Old Testament and Jewish tradition, and how these lines of tradition ultimately were inherited by early Christians in the first century. A particularly important line of tradition is eschatological—the Temple played a key role in Jewish eschatological and Messianic thought during the first centuries B.C./A.D. I discuss this subject at some length in an earlier article.

It is thus not surprising that the relation of Jesus to the Temple was a theme of some prominence for early Christians, being expressed and developed at various points in the New Testament. Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, who was ushering in a New Age for God’s people, meant that the eschatological (and Messianic) significance of the Temple had to be applied to the person of Jesus in some way.

I have discussed Jesus’ relationship to the Jerusalem Temple in the series “Jesus and the Law”, examining it within the broader context of his view of the Law (Torah). The Temple ritual is an important part of the commands and ordinances in the Law, and Jesus’ relation to it is an important aspect of this subject. My study of the subject, in the aforementioned series, was divided into three areas:

    1. Jesus’ “cleansing” of the Temple
    2. The “Temple saying” of Jesus
    3. Other sayings and teachings related to the Temple

The first two are discussed in Part 6, while the third is examined in Part 7.

In particular, the Temple-action and Temple-saying(s) by Jesus have eschatological (and Messianic) significance, both at the level of the original historical event/tradition, and the way that these have been narrated and presented in the Gospels. Was Jesus consciously responding to the traditional line of eschatological thought—viz., that the “restoration of Israel” at the end-time would involve a new/restored Temple (cf. my previously mentioned article)? I believe that the answer must be regarded as affirmative, though with some qualification. From the earlier studies on the eschatology in the Sayings and Parables of Jesus, we have seen how Jesus repeatedly began from the point of the traditional expectation, but then proceeded to re-interpret it, giving it a deeper meaning in relation to his own person and identity (as Messiah and Son of Man). The same appears to be true with regard to the Temple action, and also the Temple saying (in John they are combined together).

Three distinct strands can be found in the Gospel tradition:

    • The destruction of the Temple in terms of the end-time Judgment
    • A new/restored role and purpose for the Temple—as a place of prayer and teaching
    • The identification of Jesus himself as the new/true Temple, which also marks the end of the old Covenant and the beginning of the new (in Christ)

Early Christians developed all three strands, though it is the last of these which came to dominate by the end of the New Testament period.

Early Christian Views of the Temple

The last two themes mentioned above were applied and developed by early Christians almost immediately, indicating that they followed naturally from Jesus’ own teaching; this pair of themes may be summarized:

    • The Temple as a place of prayer and teaching
    • The Temple fulfilled in the person of Jesus

Both aspects involve the elimination of the sacrificial ritual, allowing for the Temple idea to continue among believers long after the historical Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. Already in the Gospel tradition, several statements by Jesus identify the Temple with his own person, and thus imply that following him effectively takes the place of fulfilling the Temple ritual (Matt 12:5-8; John 2:19ff, etc; cf. Parts 6 and 7 of “Jesus and the Law”). This came to be made more explicit by early Christians, and two areas of the New Testament may be highlighted:

    1. The sacrificial ritual is fulfilled and completed (i.e. put to an end) by Jesus’ own (sacrificial) death. This is expressed all throughout the body of Hebrews (4:14-10:18), as well as in passages such as Rom 3:25; Eph 5:2; 1 John 2:2; 4:10.
    2. Believers in Jesus are priests, able to touch the holy things and to enter, in a spiritual manner, the sacred shrine through our union with Christ. Cf. 1 Pet 2:5ff; Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:6; also Rom 15:16.

Combining both ideas leads to the core image of believers, collectively and in community, as the body of Christ—i.e., the (true) Temple and House of God. This is found numerous times in the Pauline letters—1 Cor 3:9ff, 16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; and especially Eph 2:19-22. In 2 Cor 5:1, it refers to the eternal life awaiting believers following death and resurrection. In this regard, there is a clear echo of the Temple-saying of Jesus (in Mk 14:58), with its use of the adjective a)xeiropoi/hto$ (“made without hands”; cf. also Col 2:11 and the wording in Acts 7:41, 48, 50 [referring to Temples]). In John 2:19ff, the Temple-saying of Jesus was interpreted precisely in terms of his death and resurrection, in which believers now have a share. The idea of believers as the (spiritual) house of God is also found in 1 Pet 2:5; cf. also Rev 3:12.

Sunday Psalm Studies: Psalm 84

Psalm 84

Dead Sea MSS: MasPsa (vv. 1-13 [1-12])

This is the first in a set of Psalms (84-85, 87-88) attributed to “the sons of Qorah [Korah]”; Pss 42-49 have the same ascription. The Korahites were priestly officials who served in the Temple, as attested in the books of Chronicles (1 Chron 9:19; 26:1, 19), and also as a company of singers (2 Chron 20:19). Elsewhere in the Old Testament, they are simply designated as Levite clan (Exod 6:21; 1 Chron 6:7, 23 [22, 38]), with no additional information provided. Clearly it is the group of Temple singers that is most relevant to the superscription here. It is possible that they were responsible for the editing of the ‘Elohist Psalter’.

This Psalm has a clear three-strophe structure, with the hl*s# (Selah) pause-marker here serving as a structural indicator. Each strophe concludes with an invocation using the title “YHWH of (the heavenly) armies” (toab*x= hwhy). There is also a certain step-parallelism that joins the strophes together; the concluding thought and imagery in the strophe is picked up at the beginning of the next strophe.

Psalm 84 evinces a strong Zion-theology, emphasizing the holy city of Jerusalem and the Temple. Whether or not the composition derives from a festal setting, it unquestionably makes use of such associations. The pilgrimage festival of Sukkot (Booths) is probably in view, given the theme of “dwelling-places” (vv. 2-5, 11) for the faithful, as well as the idea of God providing rain (vv. 7, 12) as a blessing for the land; the latter was a traditional association with the fall harvest festival, when the people offered prayer to God for the coming rain.

The Psalm in its finished form probably dates from the Exilic period. If so, then the imagery in the central strophe would relate to the promise of the people’s return from exile, much in the manner of the Deutero-Isaian poems. The pilgrimage motif would then apply to the exiles’ return to Jerusalem. It is possible that the current three-strophe Psalm represents an expansion of an earlier two-part composition, the core of which is preserved primarily in the first and third strophes. Like many Psalms, the third strophe of Ps 84 evinces a royal background, featuring the king as the protagonist. An emphasis on Jerusalem and the Temple is very much part of the Judean royal theology, and the Psalm could have its origins in the pre-exilic (late monarchic) period.

Metrically, Psalm 84 follows a 3+2 couplet format, especially in the first two strophes. Any irregularities will be noted below. In addition to its attribution to the “sons of Korah” (cf. above), the heading gives the musical direction tyT!G]h^-lu^ (“upon the tyT!G]“), which also is indicated for Psalms 8 and 81. It is not clear whether this refers to a melody, musical style (or mode), or a kind of instrument; probably tyTG]h^ (“[at] the winepress” [?]) designates a particular melody or type of song (to be sung at the winepress?).

Like the prior Psalms (82-83), Ps 84 is not preserved among the Qumran Psalm manuscripts; however, it does survive, virtually complete in a Dead Sea manuscript from Masada. The text of this MS is very close to the Masoretic Text, with no variants of note.

Stanza 1: Verses 2-5 [1-4]

Verse 2 [1]

“How lovely (are) your dwelling-places,
YHWH of (the heavenly) armies!”

The title toab+x= hwhy, which occurs at the close of all three stanzas, is established here in the opening couplet. The origins of this title are not certain; it may preserve the verbal force of the name YHWH, referring to God (la@) as the Creator, who brings into existence the heavenly beings and entities (cf. Cross, pp. 68-71). These are the “armies” (toab*x=) of the heavens, including the celestial bodies of the sun, moon, and stars, and related natural phenomena. They are under YHWH’s control, and ‘fight’ like soldiers at His command. This militaristic imagery relates to the storm-theophany as it is applied to El-YHWH in Israelite and Old Testament tradition. God’s control over the heavens, and waters above, is manifest in the awesome power and fury of the storm, bringing wind and rain, etc. In Old Testament tradition, expressed mainly in the ancient poetry, the celestial phenomena (of the storm, etc) work at YHWH’s behest, doing battle against the enemies of His people—cf. Exodus 15:3-10; Judg 5:4-5, 20-21; Hab 3:4-6, 8-13. For more on the background of the storm-theophany, see my article “The Conflict with the Sea in Ancient Near Eastern Myth”.

The “dwelling-places” (tonK=v=m!) of YHWH are, indeed, in (and above) the heavens. Yet the term also alludes to His dwelling on earth, among His people; the Temple sanctuary (like that of the earlier Tent-shrine) is His dwelling in a ritual and symbolic sense. The plural of the noun /K^v=m! is rather rare; it is applied, as here, to the dwelling(s) of YHWH in Ps 43:3 and 132:5, 7. Dahood (I, p. 262; II, p. 279) notes the Canaanite poetic practice of using plural forms with singular meaning when referring to a building or site. Thus, the plural here can very much refer to the Temple sanctuary. The Zion/Temple theology draws upon ancient Near Eastern (Canaanite) mythic-religious tradition, whereby the Creator (El) dwelt in/on a great cosmic mountain; this cosmological motif could be applied to any local mountain, even the modest elevation of a hilltop-site such as Zion.

Verse 3 [2]

“My soul is longing, yes even is consumed,
for (the) enclosures of YHWH;
my heart and my flesh rings out (completely)
to (the) Mighty (and) Living (One)!”

The “loveliness” (adj. dyd!y+) of YHWH’s dwelling-place was expressed in v. 2. This beauty and appeal causes the protagonist to desire it greatly. In the first couplet here in v. 3, his soul is said to “long for” (vb [s^K*) the “enclosures” of YHWH. The plural torx=j^ is largely parallel (and synonymous) with tonK=v=m!, referring to YHWH’s dwelling-place in a comprehensive way. The specific wording may allude to the idea of the Psalmist being within (inside) the dwelling. He longs for this experience, even to the point of his soul being “finished” (vb hl*K*); in English idiom, we would probably say “my soul is consumed with longing”. Though in the Qal stem here, the verb hl*K* really needs to be translated in a passive/stative manner much like the Niphal of [s^K*.

In the second couplet, this longing bursts forth with a great cry or shout (vb /n~r*, “ring out”) that encompasses the Psalmist’s entire being—both “heart” and “flesh”, soul and body. This reflects a primal sense of worship that stems from the deepest part of a person. This same idea is expressed in the famous Shema (Deut 6:5). For the devout worshiper, the dwelling of God is desirable because He Himself dwells there.

Verse 4ab [3ab]

“Even (the) chirping (one) finds a home,
and (the) swift a nest for her,
where she may set her sprouting (young),
near your places of slaughter.”

The curious imagery in these two couplets is the means by which the Psalmist approaches the idea of a human being taking up abode in the dwelling of God. He makes the striking juxtaposition of a bird establishing a nest for her young right next to the place where animals are slaughtered for sacrifice. The particle ta# in the last line is best understood in terms of proximity (i.e., “with, near, beside”). The noun j^B@z+m! literally means “place of (ritual) slaughter”, i.e., an altar where animal sacrifices are offered; even though it can be used for other kinds of altars as well, the emphasis on the slaughter of animals should be preserved, in order to bring out the paradoxical contrast of the altar as a safe location for a bird to have her nest. The plural (“places of slaughter”) follows the use of the plural in vv. 2 and 3a (“dwelling places,” “enclosures”) with singular meaning—i.e., as a reference the altar of burnt offerings in the Temple courtyard. One might also note the tradition of the altar as a place of sanctuary, where a person could take refuge for protection (e.g., 2 Kings 2:28-29ff).

Verses 4c-5 [3c-4]

“O YHWH of (the heavenly) armies,
my King and my Mighty (One),
happiness to (those) sitting in your house,
(who) continually give praise to you!”

As noted above, all three stanzas close with an invocation using the title toab*x= hwhy (“YHWH of [the heavenly] armies”); on which, cf. verse 2 (above). Verse 4c can be read as either a 4-beat line or a 2-beat (2+2) couplet. Like the bird who makes her nest (v. 4ab), the righteous/faithful ones are said to be “sitting” (vb bv^y`), i.e. dwelling, in the “house” of God. The possibility is thus raised that a human being might take up residence in God’s dwelling-place.

Stanza 2: Verses 6-9 [5-8]

Verse 6 [5]

“Happiness for (the) man whose refuge (is) in you,
(the) pathways up (to it are) in (his) heart.”

I have noted how there is a certain step-parallelism in this Psalm, whereby the thought and imagery at the close of a stanza is picked up at the beginning of the next stanza. Here the beatitude-motif from verse 5 is essentially repeated here. The idea of a person finding a place of refuge (zou[m*]) in YHWH is parallel with the image of people “sitting” (i.e., dwelling) in His house.

A place of refuge/protection is usually understood as a secure location up high, and this is reflected here by the use of the noun hLs!m= (“highway”), denoting a pathway or road that is “built up” (raised) above ground level. The paths that lead a person to God’s dwelling are located in the heart. On the one hand, this is a spiritualization of the Temple concept; but, at the same time, it reflects the fundamental idea that a person’s devotion, which enables him/her to be able to dwell with God, stems from the intention and purpose of the heart. Cf. the longing-theme, along with the use of the noun bl@ (“heart”), in verse 2.

The image of a highway or road suggests the notion of a pilgrimage—that is, of people journeying to Jerusalem (and the Temple) for a festival (such as Sukkot, cf. above). I also discussed the possibility that there is an allusion here to the people’s return from exile, and their restoration in the land (with a new kingdom centered at Jerusalem). The noun hL*s!m= is used in such a context in the book of Isaiah (11:16; 40:3; 49:11; 62:10).

With Dahood (II, p. 280), I read the <– suffix on <bblb as an enclitic, though it is also possible that a plural suffix (“their heart”), i.e., the righteous ones collectively, is meant as a counterpart to the singular (“[the] refuge for him”, i.e. whose refuge).

Verse 7 [6]

“Passing through (the) valley of shrub(s),
they set it (to be) a place of spring(s),
(the) blessings (with which) rain covers (the land).”

The precise meaning and syntax of this verse is difficult. The subject of the first two lines is by no means clear. There would be some clarity if the intended subject were the “blessings” brought by the rain, expressed in the third line; this would indeed be sensible, except that the feminine plural noun tokr*B= does not agree with the masculine plurals in the prior lines. Many commentators view the subject as an implicit (and otherwise unspecified) group of pilgrims, or of the people (collectively) on their return from exile. Overall, in spite of the disagreement of gender, it seems best to view the verse as referring to the effect of the rain, giving water to the dry desert land, and thus making it fertile. Such imagery could well be meant to symbolize the restoration of Israel.

The noun ak*B* apparently refers to the balsam shrub of the Judean hill country. It presumably is used to represent the shrubbery of an arid/dry terrain, but there may also be a bit of wordplay with the root hk*B* (“weep”).

Verse 8 [7]

“(So) they go from rampart to rampart, (until)
they see (the) Mighty of Mightiest in ‚iyyôn.”

How does verse 8 relate to the prior verse 7? It is possible that an unspecified (and generalized) collection of righteous/devout people is the implied subject of both verses (cf. above). The imagery then would be of the people passing through the Judean desert (v. 7) until they reach the walls of Jerusalem (and the Temple). Certainly the righteous ones, collectively, seem to be in view here. As they approach, and then enter, the Temple, they see God—that is, the place of His dwelling, where He resides. The verb form ha#r*y@ is a Niphal (passive) singular form (“he/it is seen”), which does not agree with the plural of line 1. I follow Dahood (II, p. 282) in vocalizing as a Qal active plural, War=y] (“they see”). If the MT is retained, then the line would read: “(until the) Mighty of Mightiest is seen in Zion”.

There is likely a bit of word play involving the noun lyj, which (vocalized lyj@) could mean “surrounding wall, rampart”, or (vocalized ly]j^) “strength, wealth, riches”. The rain brings blessings (i.e., richness) to the land, and the people experience similar blessings as they come near to YHWH’s dwelling-place in Jerusalem.

With other commentators, I read <yhla la (with la vocalized la@) as a double-superlative Divine title: “Mighty of Mightiest (One)s,” i.e., “God of Gods”.

Verse 9 [8]

“YHWH, Mightiest (One) of (the) armies,
may you hear my prayer—
give your ear, O Mighty (One) of Ya’aqob!”

This stanza, like the first (see v. 5, above), closes with an invocation using the title “YHWH of (the heavenly) armies” (toab*x= hwhy), in an expanded form with the inserted appellative <yh!l)a$ (“Mightiest [One],” i.e., God). The Psalmist asks YHWH to hear his prayer.

Stanza 3: Verses 10-13 [9-12]

Verse 10 [9]

“May you, our Protector, see, O Mightiest (One),
and look upon (the) face of your anointed.”

Continuing with the step-parallelism in this Psalm, the invocation (and prayer) at the close of the second stanza is picked up at the beginning of the third. The noun /g@m* is often translated “shield” but literally means “protection”. YHWH is the protection for His people (the righteous); the same idea was expressed at the beginning of the second stanza (v. 6), referring to God as the place of refuge for the righteous. I translate /g@m* here as “protector”, personalizing the noun, rather than as the more abstract “protection”.

The protection for the Israelite/Judean people naturally extends to the king (“your anointed”). This suggests that the origins of Psalm 84 stem from the pre-exilic (monarchic) period; indeed, many of the Psalms evince such a royal background, in which the king functions, at least in part, as the protagonist and vassal-servant of YHWH in the Psalm.

Verse 11 [10]

“For good is a (single) day in your enclosures
(more) than a thousand in the grave;
(better) to be at the threshold of (the) house of (the) Mightiest
than to go around in (the) tents of wickedness.”

The Psalmist returns here to the idea of dwelling in the house of God, the principal theme of stanza 1 (see esp. the climactic verse 5). He would much rather spend a single day in the “enclosures” of God’s house, than to spend a thousand days “in the grave”. The final word of the second line of the first couplet is problematic. It can be dealt with three ways:

    • The MT can be retained, yT!r=j^B*, a verb form of rj^B* (“choose”); the line would read “(more) than a thousand I might have chosen”.
    • It can be parsed as the preposition B followed by the noun trj, meaning “grave”; this noun would be cognate with Ugaritic —rt and Akkadian —£r£tu (cf. Dahood, II, 282f).
    • The text could be emended to yr!d=j#B= (“in my chamber”), cf. Kraus, p. 166; the line would then be “(more) than a thousand in my (own) chamber”.

I have chosen the second option, as being more fitting to the parallelism of the verse. It also has the benefit of not requiring the text to be emended; the postformative y-, if retained, could be explained as an archaic case ending that was unwittingly preserved, or the author may be personalizing the object/location as “my grave”. The “grave” probably is meant figuratively, parallel in meaning with the expression “tents of wickedness”.

In both couplets the preposition /m! (“from”) is used in a comparative sense; in English, this has to be translated “(more) than, (better) than,” etc.

Verse 12 [11]

“(For) indeed, (our) Sun and Shield
(is) YHWH (the) Mightiest;
favor and weight does He give (us),
nor will YHWH hold back (the) good
to (those) walking in complete(ness).”

The structure and meter of this verse is somewhat complex. I think it is best read as a 3+2 couplet (in the metrical pattern of the Psalm), following by a 3+3+2 tricolon.

The noun /g@m* (“protection”), as a title (“Protector”), is repeated from verse 10 (cf. above); for poetic concision, I have translated it here as “Shield”. It is paired with the noun vm#v# (“sun”), also used as a Divine title. Referring to YHWH as “Sun” suggests the bestowal of life-giving and sustaining blessings (like the rain-motif in verse 7). These blessings are defined here as “favor” (/j@) and “weight” (dobK*), the latter term understood in the sense of “worth, value, honor”. Moreover, YHWH is faithful in His bestowal of blessings, fulfilling His covenant obligation in this regard; indeed, He will not “hold back” (vb un~m*) any good thing from those who are faithful and loyal to Him—lit. “(those) walking in complete(ness),” or “…with a complete (heart)”, “…in complete (loyalty)”. The adjective <ym!T* (“complete”), in this ethical-religious sense, connotes faithfulness, loyalty, and (personal) integrity.

Again, YHWH is like the rain (v. 7) in bringing down what is good (blessings, etc) on the land and its people; indeed, there is some indication that the noun bof (“[the] good”) can be used as a specific reference to the rain; compare, for example, Amos 4:7 with Jer 5:25 (cf. Dahood, I, p. 25f; II, p. 283).

Verse 13 [12]

“O YHWH of (the heavenly) armies,
(how) happy (is the) man
taking refuge in you!”

As mentioned above, all three stanzas conclude with an invocation using the title “YHWH of (the heavenly) armies” (toab*x= hwhy). Also, like the first stanza (v. 5), this stanza closes with a beatitude expresses the happiness (rv#a#) that belongs to the one who resides with God in His dwelling-place. Here the beatitude is virtually identical in meaning with the one in verse 6; in both instances, the happiness is defined in terms of seeking/finding refuge in YHWH. This is expressed in verse 6 by the noun zou (“[place of] refuge”), while here the verb jf^B* is used; this verb occurs with some frequency in the Psalms (46 times). The theme of YHWH providing protection, as part of His covenant-obligation, to those who are faithful/loyal to Him, is prominent in many Psalms.

For poetic concision, I have rendered the beatitude formula here “(how) happy (is)…”. The meter of this concluding verse I read as a terse 2-beat (2+2+2) tricolon.

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).
Those marked “Kraus” are to Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalmen, 2. Teilband, Psalmen 60-150, 5th ed., Biblischer Kommentar series (Neukirchener Verlag: 1978); English translation in Psalms 60-150, A Continental Commentary (Fortress Press: 1993).
Those marked “Cross” are to Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (Harvard University Press: 1973).

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:62-66

1 Kings 8:62-66

Verses 62-66 comprise the narrative conclusion to the Prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8 (cf. last week’s study on vv. 54-61). Together with the introduction in vv. 1-11, these verses frame the Prayer itself and constitute the core historical tradition upon which the overall literary work was based. Verses 62-66 could be read after verse 11 without disruption or without the sense that anything was missing.

Interestingly, while the Prayer itself makes virtually no mention of the Temple cultus (i.e., the sacrificial ritual), emphasizing instead the Temple as a focal point for the people’s prayers, the surrounding narrative has a ritual emphasis. The festival setting (Sukkot) is established in vv. 1-2ff, and, in vv. 62-64 the associated sacrificial offerings are described. Verse 62 presumably refers to the prescribed offerings outlined in Numbers 29:12-38. Bulls, rams, and yearling lambs were all to be presented, collectively by the people, as burnt offerings. In all likelihood, the number of burnt offerings for the seven days (combined) is meant to have symbolic importance: 70 bulls, 28 rams, 98 lambs; additionally, there was to be the sin offering of a goat each day (7 in all, with another on the eighth day), along with grain and drink (libation) offerings. On the eighth day, the burnt offering would be: one bull, one ram, and seven lambs.

The offerings described in vv. 63-64, presented specifically under the king’s supervision (cp. 2 Sam 6:18; 1 Kings 12:32; 2 Kings 16:12-15), would have been separate from the offerings prescribed for Sukkot. They are specifically referred to as <l#v# offerings. The term <l#v# is often translated flatly, and somewhat misleadingly, “peace offering”. In actuality, the word defies easy translation into English; some translators render it “offering of well-being”, and this is rather closer to the mark. The root <lv denotes “fullness, completion”, and is frequently used in the context of a binding agreement (covenant) between two parties—and, specifically, of the covenant between YHWH and Israel. The <lv word-group, in this context, refers to the “fulfillment” of the covenant-bond—i.e., of maintaining and reinforcing the binding relationship between YHWH and His people (and of the people with one another). Only a portion of the <l#v# offering (i.e., the blood and fat) was devoted to God, with certain meat-parts (right thigh and breast) reserved for the priest(s); the rest of the animal could be used/eaten by the worshiper in a votive meal.

As would be fitting for the spectacle of the occasion (the inauguration of the Temple), Solomon supervised an enormous number of sacrificial offerings. Most commentators view the sheer number as an unrealistic exaggeration. Be that as it may, the author (and his underlying tradition) clearly intends to bring across the grandeur of the scene, being appropriate for the occasion: “And (so) the king and all (the) sons of Yisrael inaugurated (the) house of YHWH”. The verb En~j* denotes the beginning or initiation of something; in this context, “inaugurate” would be a proper translation of the verb.

In order to offer the sacrifices (by fire) to YHWH, it was necessary specifically to consecrate (vb vd^q*) the altar, along with the area around the altar (in the middle of the courtyard), because of the consecrated space needed to support the size and scope of this ritual celebration (v. 64).

The concluding verses 65-66 form an inclusio for the narrative with vv. 1-2, emphasizing again the celebration of the Sukkot festival. Apparently, the festival was held over a 14-day period, rather than the normal 7-day period, thus doubling the length of time. According to the parallel in 2 Chron 7:9, the first seven days were devoted to the inauguration of the Temple, with the second seven days belonging to the festival (cp. 2 Chron 30:23ff); in any case, the final (eighth) day of the festival would have occurred at the end of the 14-day period.

With the king (Solomon) having fulfilled his role overseeing the celebration, the focus at the close of the narrative shifts to the people. They bless the king (parallel to his blessing of the people in vv. 54-61), after which—

“…they went to their tents, (being) glad and good of heart over all the good that YHWH had done for Dawid His servant and for Yisrael His people.” (v. 66)

The closing reference to David brings to mind again an important point of emphasis in the Prayer—namely, that of defining the established covenant-bond between YHWH and His people in terms of the Judean royal theology. This theology particularly involves the person of the king and the royal city of Jerusalem. The location of the Temple in Jerusalem, as part of the palace-temple complex on the ancient hilltop site of Zion (i.e., the “city of David”), firmly roots the covenant within this royal setting. Compare this same emphasis as it is expounded in vv. 15-26.

As I have previously noted, a key purpose of the Temple was to unite the hearts and minds of the people, unifying the kingdom from a religious and spiritual standpoint. There are two main aspects of this process: (1) the centralization of worship, and (2) the emphasis on the name of God. In next week’s study, the concluding study in this series on 1 Kings 8, these aspects will be discussed in more detail, and we will also attempt to apply the principal results of our exposition to the religious identity and experience of believers in Christ today.

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:44-53

1 Kings 8:44-53

Solomon’s Prayer in 1 Kings 8 concludes with two contrasting situations for the people (and the kingdom) involving warfare. The situations each begin with the particle yK! followed by an introductory verb:

    • “When [yK!] your people goes out [ax@y@] against its enemy…” (v. 44)
    • “When [yK!] they do wrong [Waf=j#y#] to you [i.e. sin against you] … and you give them (over) to (the) face of (the) enemy…” (v. 46)

In each instance, the people go out to battle a foreign enemy. In the first instance (vv. 44-45), it is assumed that the people, as a whole, have been faithful/loyal to the covenant with YHWH (and its Torah); as a result, the expectation is that, when they pray to YHWH (in the direction of the Temple), He will hear their prayer and answer them (that is, give victory to them).

In the second instance (vv. 46-50), when the people have sinned against YHWH, transgressing against the covenant (as a people/nation), then they will be defeated by the enemy in battle. As is typical in the Old Testament, such a military defeat against God’s people is viewed as a manifestation of Divine judgment. The wording here makes it clear that defeat comes from YHWH’s initiative: “…you give them (over) to (the) face of (the) enemy”. The same basic situation was described briefly in vv. 33-34, along with an allusion to the exile of the population; the theme of exile is given much greater prominence here:

“…to (the) face of (the) enemy, and they take them captive (as) their captives to (the) land of the enemy, (whether it is) far or near” (v. 46b)

The dual-use of the verb hb*v* (“take captive”) is emphatic, emphasizing the captivity of the defeated people, being exiled off to a foreign land. Many commentators feel that this emphasis on exile is an indication of a Exilic date for the Prayer; at the very least, it does seem likely that the reality of exile played a role in the literary shaping of the Prayer (in the context of Kings) as it has come down to us. However, this need not mean that the Babylonian Captivity (of Judah) had already taken place when the Prayer was composed (and/or edited). If the reign of Josiah is the primary setting for the book of Kings (and the editing of the Deuteronomic history as a whole), then the Judean kingdom would still have been intact (along with Jerusalem and the Temple), but the reality of exile would have been experienced through the earlier Assyrian conquests (including the conquest/exile of the Northern Israelite Kingdom).

In any case, the prospect of exile for a defeated population would have been natural enough at any time in the ancient Near East. It is not necessary to make any definitive judgment regarding the background and composition of the book of Kings (or the Prayer in particular), in order for this passage (and the situation it describes) to be relevant for the audience. As in vv. 33-34, here the promise is that, if the people genuinely repent, confess their sins, and pray to YHWH, then He will forgive their sins and eventually restore them to their land (vv. 47-50).

Again, a sign of their faith and devotion is that, when they pray to YHWH, they pray in the direction of the Temple:

“And (if) they return to you with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and they make prayer to you (on the) path (to) [i.e., in the direction of] their land that you gave to their fathers, (and) to the city that you chose, and the house that I have built for your name…” (v. 48)

The Temple as the unifying focal point of prayer for the people has been emphasized throughout vv. 31-50, being specifically mentioned in each of the examples given. As I have noted, the importance of this symbolism lies in the idea that YHWH’s name resides in the Temple. Even though God actually dwells in heaven (where He hears the prayer), the prayer itself is made in the direction of the Temple, as a symbolic point on earth where God’s people can direct their worship and devotion to Him.

The presence of God’s name also indicates ownership and possession. That is to say, it is an indication that the Temple belongs to YHWH; the Temple is the focal point at the center, but the sign of ownership radiates outward, encompassing the city of Jerusalem, the territory of Judah, and the entire land/kingdom of Israel (along with its people). All of it belongs to YHWH, even as Israel is God’s own people. This is the theological point emphasized in the concluding verses 51-53:

“For your people, they indeed are your inheritance, which you brought forth from (the) land of Egypt, from (the) midst of (the) pot for (smelting) iron, (so that) your eyes (are) to be open (to the) request for favor by your servant, and (to the) request by your people Yisrael, to listen to them in every (moment) they call to you. For you separated them for yourself, for an inheritance, from all (the) people of the earth, just as you spoke (it) by (the) hand of Moshe your servant in your bringing forth our fathers from Egypt, my Lord YHWH.”

The Prayer closes much as it began, with a reference to the Exodus (v. 16). This defining moment in the history of Israel, essentially marking the beginning of their ‘birth’ as God’s people, frames the Prayer. It provides the backdrop for the choice of Jerusalem and the centralization of worship focused on the Temple building. The name of YHWH that resides in the Temple properly symbolizes the covenant bond between YHWH and His people—they are His people (belonging to Him), and He is their God.

The same essential symbolism applies, even when the concept of being God’s people has shifted and expanded to include all believers in Christ. The idea of the unifying presence of God’s name, as an abiding sign of the covenant bond, continues for us today as believers. In the next study, we will begin to explore this line of interpretation further, even as we examine the concluding verses of 1 Kings 8, looking again at the Prayer in its narrative context.

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:41-43

Before proceeding with the next section of the Prayer of Solomon (in 1 Kings 8), it may be worth considering several points of interpretation, established from our study thus far, as they might apply to Christians (both in the New Testament era and today).

In terms of the religious and historical background of the Prayer, a key theme is the centralization of worship for the Israelite people, focused on the kingdom-capital of Jerusalem and the site of the Temple (Zion). This theme runs throughout the entire Deuteronomic history, beginning with the book of Deuteronomy and climaxing with the religious reforms in Judah under Josiah (2 Kings 23). For people all over the kingdom, Jerusalem (and the Temple) was to be the focal point of their religious devotion. Sacrificial offerings were to be presented only at the Jerusalem Temple, adult males were to travel to Jerusalem for (at the very least) the three great pilgrimage festivals, and, as expressed here in 1 Kings 8, prayers were to be directed toward the Temple.

The Temple filled the ritual and symbolic role as YHWH’s dwelling place among His people, His “house”. And yet, as the Prayer makes clear, God does not actually reside on earth in the Temple sanctuary, but in heaven. This important theological principle is made repeatedly, in spite of the reference (in vv. 10-13) to the older conception of God’s manifest presence residing within the sanctuary (of the Temple, and earlier Tent-shrine).

It is only God’s name that truly resides in the Temple. The name represents the person, if only in a symbolic and ritual sense; it also signifies ownership—i.e., the Temple building belongs to YHWH, just as the city of Jerusalem belongs to Him, and also the Israelite/Judean people (as His people). It is for these reasons, that the people are to demonstrate their devotion and loyalty to YHWH by praying in the direction of the Temple, to the place where His name resides.

This idea of the centralization of worship, focused on the Temple, has important implications for Christians, in light of the Christological principle that Jesus Christ essentially replaces the Temple, fulfilling in his own person the symbolic and ritual significance of the Temple building. For more on this subject, cf. my earlier articles in the series “Jesus and the Law” (part of “The Law and the New Testament”). This shift in focus is already evident early on in the New Testament, within the historical traditions of the Gospels and Acts, emphasizing the Temple as a place for prayer (and teaching/preaching), rather than sacrificial ritual. In this regard, early Christians were essentially developing the very emphasis we find here in the 1 Kings 8 Prayer.

The focus on the name of God also is significant in this regard. We may mention, for example, the well-established early Christian tradition that prayers were to be made in Jesus’ name. Even more important, from a theological standpoint, is the idea that Jesus (the Son) makes the name of God the Father known to believers. This is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John, particularly in the great Discourse-Prayer of chapter 17 (vv. 6, 11-12, 26). It serves as another key example of how Jesus fulfills the role of the Temple as the dwelling place for God’s name.

Finally, we should mention the related idea of believers as the dwelling place for God’s presence—now no longer symbolically, but through the reality of God’s own Spirit. The image of believers—both individually and collectively—as the Temple of God is most prominent in the Pauline letters. Paul applies the image to individual believers in 1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16, while in Eph 2:21 it is applied to believers in a collective sense. The presence of God—both manifest through His Spirit, and through His name—in believers (as His Temple) demonstrates that we belong to Him and bear His name.

These points will be discussed and developed further as we approach the end of our notes on 1 Kings 8.

1 Kings 8:41-43

“And also unto (the) foreigner, he who (is) not from your people Yisrael, but comes from a land far off in response to your name— ” (v. 41)

Verses 41-43 make clear that the role of the Temple, applies, not only to Israel (as YHWH’s chosen people), but to people from other nations as well. The adjective yr!k=n` (cf. also the related rk*n@) is used as a substantive, denoting something that is “(not) recognized”, derived from the root rkn (“recognize, acknowledge”), presumably in a privative sense. From an ethno-cultural standpoint, yr!k=n` refers to a foreigner, to be distinguished, however, from the foreigner who comes to reside among the Israelite people (the word rG@ is used for such a person). Here, the idea is of a foreign visitor to the land of Israel, but particularly one who has traveled to Israel “in response to” (/u^m^l=) the name of YHWH—that is, because he/she has heard about the great things that YHWH, as the God of Israel, has done for His people. This qualification is clearly expressed in verse 42:

“for they shall hear of your great name, and (of) your strong hand and your arm (out)stretched— “

The “hand” and (outstretched) “arm” of YHWH are euphemisms for the exercise of His Divine power and strength, through miracles and mighty deeds performed on behalf of His people. This motif-pair is part of the Deuteronomic language, occurring repeatedly in the book of Deuteronomy (4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8; cf. also Jer 21:5; Cogan, p. 286), but the basic imagery is traditional—see, for example, its use in the Song of the Sea (15:6, 12, 16). In that ancient Song, as here, it is assumed that people in the surrounding nations will hear of the mighty things done by YHWH (vv. 14-16), demonstrating that He is far greater than any of the deities they worship (v. 11).

The second half of verse 42 picks up from v. 41:

“…but he comes and makes prayer to(ward) this house”

The fact that the foreign visitor makes prayer toward the Temple demonstrates two important points: (1) he/she recognizes YHWH as God, worthy of worship, and (2) she/he acknowledges the role of the Temple within the Israelite religion (i.e., the worship of YHWH). It is clear that Solomon (and the author of Kings) expects that YHWH will answer the prayers of such a devout foreigner, no less than He will those of His own people:

“you shall hear (him from) your dwelling place (in) the heavens, and shall do (for him) according to every(thing about) which the foreigner calls to you, so that (as a result) all (the) peoples of the earth might know your name, (coming) to fear you (just) like your people Yisrael, and to know that your name is called over this house that I have built.” (v. 43)

The prayer-wish is that, through the witness of such a devout foreigner, many other people, throughout all the surrounding nations, will come to respond in like manner—learning to know and fear YHWH, acknowledging Him (His name) as true God and Sovereign, and recognizing the Temple (in Jerusalem) as the place where His name dwells. This is an early example of a theme that would be developed in the later Prophets (and subsequently in Jewish eschatology)—namely, the prospect of people from the surrounding nations coming to Jerusalem in order to worship YHWH, and even joining with Israel to become part of the people of God. It is a theme that would feature prominently in early Christian thought, and, as a principle, would underlie the entire early mission to the Gentiles (cf. Mk 13:10 par; Lk 2:30-32; 24:47; Acts 1:8; 10:35ff; 13:46-47ff; 15:7-11, 14-18ff, etc). A key reference to the Temple, in this regard, is found in Isaiah 56:7, a Scripture cited by Jesus in the context of his Temple-action (according to the Synoptic tradition, Mk 11:17 par); the emphasis, as here, is on the Temple as a place associated with prayer.

Within Old Testament tradition, the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1-13) is the most notable example of a foreign visitor who comes to Israel and acknowledges YHWH as God (v. 9). Naaman (in 2 Kings 5) also features as a foreigner who recognizes that worship must be given to YHWH alone (vv. 17f); cf. Cogan, p. 286. In the New Testament, in the context of the early Christian mission, Cornelius (Acts 10-11) is the type-figure for the God-fearing non-Israelite who becomes a believer.

References marked “Cogan” above are to Mordechai Cogan, I Kings, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 10 (Yale: 2001/8).

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:31-32

1 Kings 8:31-40

Verses 31-40 of the Prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8 (cf. the previous studies) illustrate the principle of the centralization of worship for Israel/Judah, involving the Jerusalem Temple. The newly-built Temple (in the context of the narrative) clearly is intended to have a central position in the religious and cultural life of the people, continuing the tradition established with the earlier Tent-shrine (vv. 3-4ff). While the Tent-shrine was portable, moving along with the people, the Temple is built at a fixed (permanent) location. This has important implications for the religious experience of the people, and reflects the royal theology of the Kingdom. The people experience and relate to God, in a fundamental way, through the framework of the Temple and its ritual.

1 Kings 8:31-32

While most of the examples in vv. 31-40 emphasize the Temple as the focal point for the people’s prayers, the initial case involves social relations among the people. The ‘vertical’ relationship between the people and God has a corresponding ‘horizontal’ relationship of one person to another. Both need to be maintained, at both a ritual and ethical level, and the Temple plays a central role in this process.

However, with the specific example given in vv. 31-32, it can be a bit difficult to discern the precise situation being described. It is introduced with the substantive particle ta@, followed by the relative particle rv#a&. The particle ta@ often marks a predicate accusative (or direct object), but it can be used for other purposes as well; here it introduces a subject for discussion, and the combination rv#a& ta@ can be translated something like “in a situation where…”, “regarding (times) when…”. The specific situation in vv. 31-32 is summarized simply:

“when a man does wrong to his neighbor…”
ohu@r@l= vya! af*j$y# rv#a& ta@

The verb af*j* means “miss (the mark)”, often in the general sense of “fail to do (something)”, or with the specific ethical-religious nuance of “fail  to do (what is right)”, i.e., “do (something) wrong”. It corresponds to a(marta/nw in Greek, with both verbs being translated (in most instances) as “sin”. The phrase here can be rendered “sins against a neighbor,” but a somewhat more accurate translation is “does wrong to a neighbor”. The noun u^r@ denotes an associate, someone living or working close to another person; “neighbor” captures the general social situation.

The nature of the wrong done to a person is not specified, and it presumably could cover a wide range of offenses. It is serious enough, however, that the person who was wronged wishes to clear himself of any wrong-doing (on his own part) that could have justified such mistreatment by his neighbor. This touches upon a ritual aspect of life in the ancient world that is largely lost and foreign to us today. It involves the swearing of oaths, with the religious-magical force that such binding oaths were thought to possess. A formal action is described here in verse 31:

“and (if) he should impose on him a curse [hl*a*], to make him swear (under force of) the curse [vb hl*a*]…”

The principal verb is av*n`, which is typically used in the context of money-lending, and can refer to the imposition of a debt (and/or the exaction of it). Here the verb would presumably mean that an oath (with a curse) is imposed upon the person (who wronged his neighbor). However, some MSS read the visually similar verb ac*n` instead, which means “lift/take up” —i.e., take up an oath/curse.

The noun hl*a* denotes an imprecation or curse, typically in the specific context of a binding oath, etc. The related verb, in the Hiphil (causative) stem, indicates the forcing of someone to take such an oath—i.e., making them swear, under the force of a curse. The curse is an essential part of the oath, as it is intended to compel truthfulness and the fulfillment of any binding obligation. If a person violates the oath (or swears falsely), then the curse will come about against him/her. This is built into the magical character of the oath-idea: whatever the person utters in the curse-formula will come to pass if the oath is violated (or made falsely). Moreover, the deity thought to witness the oath will ensure that the curse comes about, as a form of divine punishment against the violator. In the context of Israelite monotheism, of course, it is YHWH who brings about the curse-punishment.

Thus, it is necessary that YHWH witnesses the oath (and its curse), and, for this reason, the oath is made, in a ritual (and symbolic) manner, in the presence of YHWH—that is, within the Temple precincts, in His “house”:

“…and he should come (and) utter the curse [vb hl*a*] before your slaughtering-place [i.e. altar] in this house”

The oath, with its curse, is made in front of the altar (lit. the place of [ritual] slaughter, j^B@z+m!) in the Temple courtyard. Based on the other examples given in vv. 33-40, one might suppose that it would be enough for the oath to be made in the direction of the Temple; however, at least in this situation, as it is described, the individuals are present at the Jerusalem Temple itself. The altar is a symbolic point of contact between the people and YHWH, a place where, in a ritual manner, they encounter His presence (the inner sanctuary being off-limits to the general population). By making the oath before God’s altar, the person makes the oath (and utters its curse) before God Himself.

Yet God is not actually present in the Temple, since His true dwelling is in heaven (cf. the discussion in the previous study); still, the request (and expectation) is that YHWH will hear the oath, and will respond accordingly:

“then you will hear (it in) the heavens, and you will act, and you will judge (between) your servants—to declare wrong (the one who is) wrong, (so as) to give (him) his (wicked) way (back) on his head, and to declare right (the one who is) right, (so as) to give to him according to his righteousness” (v. 32)

The prayer is that God will act to make clear who is right and who is wrong, punishing the wicked one and clearing/blessing the righteous. The adjectives uv*r* and qyd!x* are typically translated, in a religious-ethical sense, as “wicked” and “righteous”, respectively; here, however, the legal-judicial aspect of being “wrong” and “right” needs to be emphasized as well. The force of the curse, uttered in the oath, will come down upon the person shown to be wrong, and it is YHWH who will ensure this, as a matter of divine punishment against wickedness (and the false swearing of an oath).

In the ancient world, the swearing of oaths was a natural and normal component of social-relations, and served as an effective means of resolving disputes, securing truthful/honest dealings, and so forth. The magical-religious dimension of binding oaths (and their curse formulas) may be foreign to us today, with only a faint vestige remaining (associated with jury trials and other legal proceedings) in our culture; however, they played an important role in regulating interactions and relationships within society, helping to maintain a level of justice, fairness, and equity throughout. It is only natural that such oaths would be made, symbolically, in God’s presence, at the altar in the Temple. For the different approach to oaths that we (as Christians) are to follow, according to the teaching of Jesus, cf. my earlier article discussing the ‘Antitheses’ in the Sermon on the Mount (spec. the fourth ‘Antithesis’, Matt 5:33-37).

In the next study, we will survey the examples given in vv. 33-40.

August 22: Psalm 78:65-72

Because of the length of Psalm 78, the exegesis of its couplets and verses will be presented over a series of daily notes. The previous note examined vv. 56-64; for the discussion of the opening section (vv. 1-8), see the introductory study.

Psalm 78:65-72

Verse 65

“Then (the) Lord awoke like (one who was) asleep,
like a mighty (warrior) shouting from (the) wine.”

This section is parallel with vv. 52-55, in the way that it describes YHWH acting on behalf of His people, utilizing the motif of a shepherd who guides/leads his flock. The initial w-conjunction here indicates a new development (i.e., “and then…”). While vv. 56-64 (like the earlier vv. 40-51) emphasized the people’s disobedience, which led to God’s judgment against them, here the focus shifts to His action on their behalf. The apparent “sleeping” of YHWH reflects His lack of support, over a period of time, as part of the judgment. Now, in his return to action for His people, He ‘awakes’ with a great shout.

Verse 66

“And He struck His adversaries (on the) behind—
disgrace into (the) distant (future) He gave to them!”

YHWH’s action on behalf of His people is described in military terms, and His role in an actual Israelite military victory may be in view. He strikes the enemies of His people, who are also His enemies, in such a way as to give them lasting disgrace (hP*r=j#). The humiliating nature of the enemies’ defeat is indicated by the use of the noun roja* (“rear, [area] behind”); probably a blow on their behind(s) is intended (cf. Dahood, II, p. 247), which certainly would entail a sense of disgrace. It may also refer more generally to a military defeat that sent the enemies going back in a rout. In any case, their defeat, thanks to YHWH’s power fighting on Israel’s behalf, is to be understood as devastating.

Verse 67

“But He (also) rejected (the) tent of Yôsep,
and (the) staff of Eprayim He did not choose.”

As in the opening couplet of v. 9, this verse refers to YHWH’s rejection of the northern tribes (and the northern Kingdom), in favor of the south (i.e., Judah). This implies that the rejection preceded the revolt of the northern tribes; however, more likely, the revolt is being anticipated here, as a literary device in the Psalm. With foreknowledge, YHWH chooses the tribe of Judah (and the city of Jerusalem) to have the leading and favored position. As mentioned in the earlier note (on v. 9), Ephraim often represents the northern tribes as a whole (being the most prominent of them); here “Joseph” is included as a parallel reference.

The rejection of the northern tribes/kingdom is connected with the defeat of the enemies of YHWH; the implication is that the northern tribes, in their faithlessness and rebellion, acted in manner similar to the surrounding nations.

Verse 68

“And (instead) He chose (the) staff of Yehûdah,
(and the) mount of ‚iyyôn which He loves.”

The implication here is that Judah was chosen primarily because of the location of the fortified hilltop site of ancient Jerusalem (i.e., ‘mount’ Zion), where the Temple would be built. At the same time, apparently, the southern tribes remained faithful in a way that the norther tribes did not, at least so as not to be disqualified as YHWH’s favored choice.

Verse 69

“And He built like (the) heights (of heaven) His holy place,
and like (the) earth which He founded for (the) distant (future).”

Like the cosmos itself, YHWH established His holy dwelling place (lit. “holy place”, vD*q=m!) to last for the ages. The upper half of the cosmos contains the heavenly “heights”, while the “earth” surface (and all that is below it) makes up the lower half. This description alludes to the cosmic dwelling of the Creator El-YHWH; in ancient Semitic tradition, this dwelling was viewed as a great mountain, reflecting the cosmological-mythic idea of the primeval universe itself as a mountain (“heaven-earth,” Sumerian an-ki). Any local geographic mountain could serve, ritually and symbolically, for the cosmic mountain of the Creator. This is certainly true of mount Sinai/Horeb for YHWH, and the same symbolic association applied to the much more modest mount of Zion. The Temple, of course, built on this ‘mountain’, is patterned conceptually after the heavenly dwelling-place of YHWH.

The second line literally reads: “and like the earth, He founded her…” (using a femine suffix); however, this makes for very awkward English, and it is customary to replace this syntax with the use of a relative pronoun (i.e., “…which He founded”).

Verse 70

“And He (also) made choice of Dawid, His servant,
and took him from (the) holding pens of (the) flock.”

The building of the Temple (v. 69) is mentioned prior to the choice of David as king, even though historically the two events occurred in reverse order. The priority of the Temple, as YHWH’s holy dwelling place, takes priority over the human kingship of Israel/Judah. The choice of David, and his origins as a sheep-herding youth, are narrated in 1 Samuel 16.

Verse 71

“From following (the) suckling (ewe)s, He brought him
to feed (as sheep) Ya’aqob, His people,
and Yisrael, His inheritance.”

David’s origins as a shepherd are played on here, drawing upon the tradition motif of the king as a shepherd over the people. This symbolism was widespread throughout the ancient Near East; on references in the Old Testament, cf. Num 27:17; 2 Sam 7:7; 1 Kings 22:17; Isa 44:28; Jer 3:15; 23:1ff; Ezek 34:2ff, etc. The specific application of this motif to David is first referenced in 2 Samuel 5:2, and, through this association, the Shepherd-motif came to take on Messianic significance (cf. Mic 5:4-5; Ezek 34:23; 37:24). Elsewhere in the Scriptures, God Himself is referred to as the Shepherd of His people (e.g., Gen 49:24; Psalm 23:1ff; 80:1; Isa 40:11). In Psalm 77:20, God’s shepherding of Israel is done through the intermediary of Moses and Aaron (as leaders); here, similarly, it is through David as Israel’s king.

The verb hu*r*, here and in v. 72, denotes the feeding of animals, often specifically in the context of herding—i.e., leading animals to pasture where they can graze.

Verse 72

“And (so) he fed them, according to (the) completeness of his heart,
and with (the) skillfulness of his hands he guided them.”

The idea of David’s heart being “complete” (<t) may contain an allusion to the original tradition in 1 Samuel (cf. 13:14; 16:7). The faithfulness and integrity of David’s heart toward YHWH (and the covenant) was traditional, being referenced repeatedly in the book of Kings (1 Ki 9:4, etc) as an example for the other rulers of Israel and Judah.

References marked “Dahood, I” and “Dahood, II” above are to, respectively, Mitchell Dahood, S.J., Psalms I: 1-50, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 16 (1965), and Psalms II: 51-100, vol. 17 (1968).

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:27-30

The Monday Notes on Prayer feature for the remainder of Summer (in August & September) is focusing on the Prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8. Verses 22-26 were discussed in the previous study.

1 Kings 8:27-30

With verse 27, the focus of the Prayer shifts to the role and purpose of the Temple. This is significant, since the purpose indicated in the Prayer differs noticeably from the emphasis earlier in vv. 10-13. The shift in emphasis began already in vv. 16-17ff, with the statement that the “house” (i.e., the Temple) was built specifically for the name (<v@) of YHWH. The distinction is between a dwelling for YHWH Himself and a dwelling for His name.

In vv. 10-13 (cf. the earlier study), the clear implication is that YHWH personally comes to dwell in the “house”, being present through the theophanous cloud. This reflects an older line of religious (and theological) tradition, drawing upon anthropomorphic and cosmological-mythic concepts—i.e., the Deity is personally present and manifest in the theophanous cloud, with the Temple building (esp. the sanctuary) serving as His dwelling-place on earth.

While this line of tradition is acknowledged in vv. 10-13, it disappears completely from the remainder of the narrative. Indeed, within the Prayer proper, there is no mention at all of YHWH Himself dwelling in the Temple, but only His name. This is especially clear here in verse 27:

“But (is it) that (the) Mightiest can truly sit [i.e. dwell] upon the earth? See, the heavens—even (the) heavens of the heavens—can not contain you, (and) even (less) that this house which I have built (could do so)!”

The theological point is that the Creator El-YHWH cannot truly, in a metaphysical sense, dwell in a building on earth. His true dwelling is in heaven—and yet, even the heavens cannot actually contain him. The verb lWK has the concrete meaning “contain” (as in a vessel), implying that a physical/material substance is involved. This is one of the clearest statements in the Old Testament Scriptures regarding the transcendence of God, expressed in terms of size. YHWH is simply too great and vast to be contained in any physical space.

The expression “heavens of the heavens” (<y]m^V*h^ ym@v=) is idiomatic; it follows a pattern—e.g., “holy of holies”, “king of kings”, “song of songs” —in Hebrew (and other Semitic languages), using this particular mode of construct expression as a superlative. The particular meaning of the expression here is “the greatest heaven,” “the highest heaven”, etc.

The ancient Near Eastern cosmology was geocentric, with the surface of the earth dividing a cosmos that tended to be seen as spherical in shape, the upper half certainly being hemispheric. There were layers—commonly three layers (i.e., three ‘heavens’)—to the upper hemisphere. Eventually the concept of a concentric spherical cosmos, with seven layers/heavens, came to be adopted on a widespread scale throughout the ancient world. According to this traditional cosmology, YHWH would be seen as dwelling in the ‘highest’ heaven.

Clearly, if YHWH cannot be contained in the vastness of the heavens, he certainly cannot be contained in a single building (built by human beings) on earth. In spite of this, Solomon continues:

“Yet may you turn to (the) prayer of your servant, and to his request for favor, O YHWH my Mighty (One), to listen to (the) cry and to (the) prayer which your servant prays before you th(is) day, (and for) your eyes to be opened to(ward) this house, night and day, to(ward) this standing place of which you said ‘My name shall be there’, (and) to listen to (the) prayer which your servant shall pray to(ward) this standing place.” (vv. 28-29)

The basic request, at the heart of the entire prayer, is that YHWH would pay attention to prayers made in the direction of (la#, “toward”) the Temple. As becomes clear in the remainder of the prayer, the Jerusalem Temple is to become the focal point of Israelite worship—in particular, for the prayers made by the people. Solomon (as king) represents the people in this regard. At the beginning of the request (in v. 28), Solomon refers to himself as YHWH’s loyal servant (“your servant”); but, at the close of the request (in v. 29), the same expression “your servant” stands for any faithful Israelite who prays to YHWH (as is clear from v. 30, cf. below).

There is a symbolic and ritual aspect to prayer, in relation to the Temple building. The location of the Temple (lit. its “standing place,” <oqm*, i.e., the place where it stands) has a unifying role for the people, and as a religious expression of their faith and devotion to YHWH. By praying in the direction of the Temple, the place where YHWH’s name dwells, this demonstrates that a person’s heart is directed toward God. Such prayer can be made at any time (“night and day”); according to Solomon’s request, YHWH’s eyes will constantly be open, attentive to any such prayer, and listening to (lit. hearing, vb um^v*) it. In the traditional religious idiom, for God to “hear” a prayer means that He will answer it.

The root llp is used several times in vv. 28-29, both the verb (ll^P*) and the related noun hL*p!T=; it is the basic Hebrew root denoting prayer to God. Prayer here is also defined specifically as a request made to God that He would show favor—i.e., respond favorably, giving help and bestowing blessing or benefits, etc. The noun signifying such a request is hN`j!T= (from the root /nj), which is formally parallel to hL*p!T=. Another word used is hN`r!, which means a ringing cry or shout; it can connote either a desperate plea (i.e., cry for help), a joyful expression of praise, or a confident shout (of triumph, etc).

From a theological standpoint, it is most significant that it is YHWH’s name, specifically, which “dwells” in the Temple. While YHWH Himself dwells in the heavens, His name dwells on earth among His people. In ancient Near Eastern thought, a person’s name represented and embodied (in a quasi-magical way) the essence and nature of the person. This was equally true in a religious context, when applied to a deity; to know a deity’s name meant knowing the deity. This name-theology represented a more abstract and rational/intellectual way for a person to relate to a deity. In this regard, it is particularly meaningful that YHWH’s name is related to the act of prayer. This is the aspect of the Temple’s purpose that is being emphasized here, rather than its role in the sacrificial ritual, for example.

The name of YHWH was important in Israelite religious tradition from the earliest times, but the name-theology took on special prominence in the book of Deuteronomy (and the subsequent Deuteronomic History, of which 1-2 Kings is a part). Beginning in chapter 12 (vv. 5, 11, 21), and then throughout the book of Deuteronomy, the implicit location of Jerusalem (and the Temple site) is repeatedly referenced as the place chosen by YHWH to set His name. The names of the Canaanite deities are to be removed from the land (Deut 12:3), replaced entirely by the name of YHWH, the one true Creator God, with whom Israel is joined in a special covenant-bond. His name is thus closely connected with the covenant, as is clear implicitly from the references here in vv. 9, 21. The people belong to Him, and this is symbolized by the Temple which bears His name, indicating a sign of ownership, etc. God’s faithful vassals (“servants”) will pray in the direction of the Temple—that is, toward His name—as a sign of covenant loyalty and devotion to their Sovereign.

The people, collectively, as YHWH’s servant(s), are emphasized in verse 30:

“May you indeed listen to (the) request of your servant for favor, and of your people Yisrael, when they shall pray to(ward) this standing place; you shall listen at (the) place of your sitting [i.e. dwelling] (in) the heavens, and (when) you listen you shall forgive.”

As noted above, the expression “your servant” refers not only to the king, but to the people as a whole; this point is made quite clear here in v. 30. Solomon’s request is that whenever the people pray toward the Temple, YHWH will respond favorably to them, answering their prayers, even to the point of forgiving (vb jl^s*) their sins.

The preposition la# has a dual-meaning in this verse; on the one hand, the directional aspect of praying “to(ward)” the Temple is in view (continued from vv. 28-29), but in the second half of the verse it also is used in the locative sense of YHWH’s dwelling in the heavens. This dual-use may be intentional, as a subtle way of juxtaposing the dwelling-place of YHWH’s name (i.e., the Temple) with the place where He Himself dwells (in heaven). For more on this, see the discussion above.

In the verses that follow (vv. 33-44), a number of examples are given of circumstances under which the people might pray to God, using the Temple as their religious focal-point. In the next study, we will begin examining these.

Notes on Prayer: 1 Kings 8:22-26

The Monday Notes on Prayer feature for the remainder of Summer (in August & September) is focusing on the Prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8. The narrative introduction (vv. 1-11) and opening of the address (vv. 12-21) were discussed in the previous study.

1 Kings 8:22-26

The Prayer itself begins in verse 22, with a brief description of the ceremonial setting; the Temple as a focal point for prayer will be developed in the remainder of the chapter. It is mentioned that Solomon “stood before (the) altar” facing (lit. “in front of,” dg#n#) the assembled people (lh*q*)—a large gathering (vv. 1-3) representing the people of Israel as a whole. It is further stated that Solomon “spread out” (vb vr^P*) his palms toward the heavens (i.e. toward YHWH) in a gesture of worship and supplication (cf. Exod 9:29, 33; Ezra 9:5; Psalm 44:20; 88:9; Isa 1:15). A corresponding idiom in Akkadian is to stand with “open hands” (id£ petû); cf. Cogan, p. 283. The idea of the heavens as the true dwelling place of YHWH is an important theme in the Prayer, and is alluded to here.

The Prayer begins with an invocation that gives honor and praise to YHWH:

“YHWH, Mighty (One) of Yisrael—there is not like you (any) Mighty (One) in the heavens up above or upon the earth below, guarding the binding agreement and the goodness for your servants, the (one)s walking before your face with all their heart” (v. 23)

This expression of the incomparable nature and character of YHWH is a reflection of ancient Israelite monotheism, though not necessarily the absolute monotheism of later times. The idea that there is no deity “like” (omK=) YHWH would seem to allow for the possibility that other divine beings exist, but that these are inferior to YHWH and subordinate to His rule (cf. Exod 15:11; Psalm 86:8; 1 Sam 2:2). However, the Deuteronomic theology does seem to go somewhat further than this, in the direction of a stronger monotheistic confession (e.g., Deut 4:39; 32:39; cf. 2 Sam 22:32); this attitude was sharped by the Prophets, through a harsh anti-polytheistic polemic that informs the later statements, for example, in Isa 45:5, 18, 22; 46:9.

The focus here in the Prayer is on the incomparableness of YHWH, particularly in regard to the binding agreement He established with His people. The word tyr!B= is typically translated “covenant”, but properly refers to a binding agreement, in a manner fully in keeping with ancient Near Eastern tradition and culture. The idea of such an agreement being cut directly between the Deity and a people is unique to Israelite tradition—particularly with regard to the religious application of this covenant-concept in its comprehensive theological, ethical, and social aspects.

Here tyr!B= is coupled with the noun ds#j#, a term which fundamentally means “goodness” or “kindness”, but which often is used specifically in the context of the covenant, where it connotes faithfulness and loyalty (i.e., to the covenant bond). In particular, YHWH demonstrates His loyalty to the agreement by fulfilling His obligation of bestowing “goodness” (benefits and protection, etc) to the other party. The agreement between YHWH and Israel has much the character of a suzerain-vassal treaty; God, as the sovereign, is obligated to provide protection, reward, and blessing to His faithful/loyal vassals (here “servants,” using the noun db#u#). The loyalty of His servants is shown by the way that they “walk before” Him with all their heart. This alludes to the distinctive religious-ethical idiom of “walking” (vb El^h*) in the ways of God’s Instruction—that is, according to the regulations and precepts of the Torah, which represents the terms of the covenant; cf. the important use of this idiom earlier in 2:4; 3:6. The central Deuteronomic statement of this covenant-principle is found in Deut 7:9ff.

The opening invocation continues in verse 24:

“…(you) who guarded for your servant Dawid my father what you spoke to him; and (as) you spoke with your mouth, (so) also you have fulfilled with your hand, as (it is so) this day.”

Just as in vv. 14-21 (cf. the previous study), the Judean royal theology—including the building of the Temple and the centralization of worship in Jerusalem—is aligned with the earlier binding agreement (established at Sinai) between YHWH and Israel. That is to say, the Judean monarchy (centered at Jerusalem) represents the natural and legitimate extension of the covenant-bond. This is especially clear by the repeated language from v. 23 here in v. 24:

    • As YHWH has guarded (vb rm^v*) the covenant, so also He guards (same verb) His promises to David.
    • David, like the faithful/loyal Israelites, is referred to as YHWH’s servant (db#u#, “your servant”)

The promise that YHWH “spoke” to David refers, principally, to the oracle delivered by Nathan in 2 Samuel 7. The bulk of the oracle (vv. 2-13) deals primarily with the “house” that will be built for YHWH by David’s son; as Solomon declares, this has now been fulfilled. The language used further legitimizes the entire enterprise of building the Temple (as opposed to continuing with a portable Tent-shrine), by affirming that it was both done according to God’s own word (i.e., what He spoke with His mouth) and through His own power (i.e., with His hand). Solomon may have organized the building project, but, in so doing, he was essentially acting out and fulfilling God’s own work.

“And now, YHWH, Mighty (One) of Yisrael, may you guard for your servant Dawid, my father, that which you spoke to him, saying: ‘There shall not be cut off for you from before my face a man sitting upon (the) throne of Yisrael—(but) only if [i.e. as long as] your children guard their paths, to walk before my face according to (the way) that you have walked before my face.'” (v. 25)

Here in verse 25, Solomon calls on YHWH to complete the remainder of the promise given to David in 2 Samuel 7. In verses 12-16, God promises David that his “kingdom” (i.e., his royal line) will be established in his son Solomon, and then continue unbroken with his descendants. In the Nathan-oracle, this promise appears to be more or less unconditional—i.e., if David’s descendants sin, they will be disciplined (v. 14), but the kingdom will not be taken from them (vv. 15-16). Here in 1 Kings, by contrast, the conditionality of the promise is rather clearly stated—it depends on David’s descendants continuing to walk in faithfulness and loyalty to YHWH (that is, to the covenant and the Torah). This explanation simply repeats what was stated earlier in 2:4.

For emphasis, in verse 26, Solomon repeats his request to YHWH:

“Indeed, now, Mighty (One) of Yisrael, let be made firm, I ask, your word that you spoke to Dawid my father!”

The verb /m^a* essentially refers to something that is fixed or set firmly in place. Solomon asks that YHWH, who is faithful to the covenant with Israel, will also be faithful to the promise made to David (cf. above). For the author(s) of the Books of Kings, in retrospect, it would have been clear how tenuous the survival of the Davidic line would be. Indeed, the condition for its survival, linked as it is to the more general idea of faithfulness to the covenant, is central to the entire Deuteronomic history, reaching its tragic climax in the Books of Kings. The chief lesson for future generations is that the Kingdom was lost because the people (and its rulers) did not remain loyal to the binding agreement with YHWH. Indeed, God remained firm in His devotion the covenant; the people, on the other hand, did not.

References marked “Cogan” above (and throughout these notes) are to Mordechai Cogan, I Kings, Anchor Bible [AB], vol. 10 (Yale: 2001).