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Soon after Solomon's advancement to the throne, God appeared to him in a dream, and promised him wisdom and knowledge, and riches, and wealth and honor, granted to none of the kings that had been before, or should come after him. He was accordingly a prince of great wisdom, splendor and glory. He reigned forty years; and, while he walked in the steps of David, his father, he in like manner promoted the divine glory; but in the latter part of his life, he was led by his strange wives into idolatry, and brought upon himself the wrath of Jehovah. There is reason, however, to believe that he became a penitent before his death, as the book of Ecclesiastes appears to be the production of a mind which had tasted the bitterness of sin, and been reclaimed to duty.
His reign was chiefly distinguished for the erection of the Temple on which David had "set his affection.”
The Tabernacle had remained the place of sacrifice. For about forty-six years it was kept at Shiloh. During the reign of Saul, it was removed to Nob. In the time of Eli, the ark was taken from it and carried into the army; was captured by the Philistines, and afterwards sent back to the city of Kirjathjearim. About seventy years after, it was carried to Mount Zion, by David. His object in building the Temple was to provide for it a permanent and noble abode. This building was probably the most magnificent and costly Temple the world had ever seen. It was not so remarkable for its size, being but about one hundred and fifty feet in length, and one hundred and five in breadth,* nor would it probably compare with modern architecture. But the costliness of its materials, and the splendor of its furniture, almost exceed belief. David and his princes consecrated to it 108,000 talents of gold, and 1,017,000 talents of silver.t About 180,000 men were employed in its formation. It was erected on Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham offered up Isaac, and was seven years in building; but every thing was prepared at a distance, so that the sound of the hammer was not heard upon it. It looked towards the East; and had a porch in front, twenty cubits wide, ten deep and one hundred and twenty in height. On each side of its entrance was a pillar eighteen cubits high and twelve in circumference, adorned with chapiters and
* Prideaux. Some say 90 feet by 30, and 45 in height.
† A talent of gold is computed at £5475, and a talent of silver at £343 3s. 93. If this be a correct computation, it was indeed an immense sum.
two hundred pomegranates. Beyond this porch was the sanctuary or Holy place; which was forty cubits in length, twenty in breadth and thirty in height, containing ten golden candlesticks, ten tables, with twelve loaves of shew-bread on each, the golden altar of incense, the silver trumpets, the standards of weight and measure, and the sacred treasures. Beyond this, in the west end of the Temple, and separated from the Holy place by a fine veil, and a two-leaved door of olive tree, was the Oracle, or Holy of holies, into which only the High Priest might enter on the day of atonement. This was twenty cubits square, and contained the ark with its furniture. Solomon made two new cherubims of olive tree, which overshadowed the mercy seat, and reached to the sides of the house. This Holy of holies had no windows, and was always dark. The walls of the Temple were of fine cedar and polished marble. On the inside were carved figures of palm trees and cherubims, and every part within and without was overlaid with pure gold.
In front of the Temple was the court for the Priests and Levites. It was surrounded by a low wall of about four feet in height, and contained the brazen altar twenty cubits long, twenty broad and ten high; and the brazen sea and lavers. Beyond this was the outer court, surrounding the whole, and enclosed by a high wall, into which every clean Hebrew and proselyte of the covenant might enter, and see, over the low wall, the operations of the priests on the altar.
When the building was finished, the ark and golden utensils were placed in it; and the Shechinah or cloud of glory entered it, to take up its abode between the cherubims. It was then dedicated by Solomon, in presence of all the tribes of Israel, to Almighty God, in a prayer, which, for comprehensiveness, solemnity and true devotion, has rarely been surpassed;—by seven days' feasting, and by a peace offering of 20,000 oxen, and 120,000 sheep, which were consumed by fire from heaven. It then became the regular place for the worship of God; which consisted of sacrifices, songs and prayer.
The dedication of the Temple took place 3000 years from the foundation of the world, and 1004 years before the birth of Christ.
This building was a beautiful type of the body of Christ, in which dwelt the fulness of the Godhead;—of the gospel Church reared up with lively stones, and the residence of
the Holy Spirit;—of the heavenly world, the literal Holy of holies, where our great High Priest appears for us before the Eternal Majesty, and where God is worshipped by an innumerable company of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. John saw no Temple in heaven, for the Lord God and the Lamb are the Temple thereof.
The promises of earthly prosperity made by God to Abraham, were all, in this period, fulfilled. His seed possessed in quietness and peace, the promised land. They had multiplied as the stars of heaven. They enjoyed great plenty. Every man sat down under his own vine and fig-tree. Their fame went abroad among all nations; God was their God; a wall of fire round about them, and a glory in the midst of them; and they, in regular observance of his statutes and ordinances, were his people.
Their state was eminently typical of the blessed state of the Church, when Christ shall reign from the river to the ends of the earth; yea, of that exalted state, when the judge ment being past, God shall bestow upon her the eternal blessings of his covenant in heaven.
It has already been remarked, that the book of Ruth, and part of the first book of Samuel, were probably written by that head of the school of the prophets. The remainder of the first, and the whole of the second of Samuel, are supposed by writers of considerable authority, to be the work of Nathan the prophet, and of Gad the seer. The next book which was added to the sacred canon, comprised the Psalms of David. This book was not originally as it now appears. Some hymns in this collection, particularly the ninetieth, are supposed to have been written by Moses. Some, particularly the 137th, by Ezra, during the captivity. And some by Asaph, Jeduthun, and Ethan. The name of David is prefixed to seventy-three. It is generally thought, that Ezra collected the whole of these sacred songs, and placed them in their present order.
In this flourishing age of the Church, the people of God also received for their guide and consolation, the book of Proverbs, of Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
The first is written after the manner of the wise men of antiquity, who chose to compress their instructions into short sentences, which are easily circulated and long retained. It contains chiefly the maxims of Solomon;-a prince who was extensively acquainted with the vices and follies, and best interests of men; and who was divinely
inspired to give us rules for conduct in every rank and condition of life. They are so beautiful, and so useful, that no man of taste can fail of receiving pleasure in their perusal; and every youth may be made wiser and better for them
The second was also the production of Solomon; and is supposed to have been written in the decline of life, after he had been seduced to idolatry, and brought to repentance. It is viewed by many as a dialogue between an infidel and a man of piety, where the former advances the loosest Sadducean philosophy, to which the latter replies with the greatest keenness and severity. But if we chose not to adopt this opinion, we must consider the wise man as sometimes using the language of unbelief ironically, for the purpose of exposing its odious character.
The Song of Solomon is a dramatic poem of the pastoral kind. It was written in the days of his youth, and is the most figurative part of Scripture. In describing a ceremonial appointment, he presents to view a spiritual concern, which that very appointment is often used in the Scripture to symbolize; and if this spiritual allegory has been used by the irreverent with unbecoming levity, the pious mind will clearly discover, through the types of Solomon and his bride, the union between Christ and his Church portrayed in a very lovely and engaging manner.
These three books are all that the Holy Spirit was pleased to preserve for the edification of the Church, of the works of the man who spake three thousand proverbs; whose “songs were a thousand and five; who spake of trees from the cedar that is in Lebanon, even to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall;" who "spake also of beasts, and of fowls, and of creeping things, and of fishes;" and they are probably all that would be eminently useful in rearing this great moral edifice.
Declension of religion in the Jewish nation. God's judgments for it.
Precious seasons to the Church of God in the days of Hezekiah and Josiah. History of the Prophets.
GREAT outward prosperity has ever been destructive to the interests of religion. The power, wealth and splendor of the Hebrew monarchy in the days of Solomon, both corrupted him and his nation. Soon after his death, Jeroboam came among the people;—a fit instrument in the hand of the prince of the power of the air, for demoralizing and destroying them. Ten tribes revolted under his treacherous dealings, from God, 975 years before Christ, and all Israel and Judah, went after the calves of Dan and Bethel, and the god Baal, and forgot the God of their fathers.
During the three hundred years which succeeded this revolt, scenes were transacted both in Israel and Judah, which scarce found a parallel among heathen nations. The house of God was converted into an idolatrous Temple, altars were erected for Baal, the great idol of the Phenicians; children were made to pass through the fire to Moloch, witchcraft, enchantments and other profanations were practised, to the corruption of the true religion, and the promotion of all manner of wickedness; and prophets and righteous men “ were stoned, were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.”
In the fierceness of his anger, God inflicted upon them those judgments which Moses threatened, if they forsook him. In the year 722 B. C., Salmanezer, a king of Assyria, invaded Samaria, the capital of the ten tribes, and, after three years siege, took it and destroyed the kingdom; carried the greater part of the inhabitants into captivity, and dispersed them throughout Assyria. And after the lapse of a little more than a century, in the year 588, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, invaded Jerusalem; destroyed the city and Temple;* took all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and of the king's house; the king, and princes, and chief men and artists, and carried them to Babylon. These tyrants were but the saw, the axe, the rod and the staff, in
* The Temple remained but a little period in its original glory. About 34 years after its dedication, Shishak carried off its golden treasures, I Kings xiv. 25. It went fast to decay under Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah. Soon after Joash robbed it to satisfy the demands of Hazael, And after him, Ahaz gave its treasures to Tiglath Pilesar; removed the brazen altar; took the brazen sea from off the oxen, and the brazen lavers from their pedestals, and placed them on the ground, and brake many of the sacred vessels, and shut up the Temple. Hezekiah repaired it, but he was obliged to robit of much of its wealth for Sennacherib. Manasseh reared altars to the hosts of heaven in its courts. Josiah purged the Temple and replaced the ark of God; but before its final destruction it was much marred; yea, scarce bore any marks of its original magnificence.