Good morning! While yesterday we had chapters detailing the Jerusalem temple’s construction, today (2 Chronicles 6-8) we hear the prayers by which the temple is made holy, before a chapter of miscellaneous accounts associated with Solomon’s rule. The main theme raised by this passage concerns the temple’s status as the house of God.
What does it mean for God to have an address? According to 2 Chronicles 6, God has never wanted an address for all the hundreds of years in the wilderness after Egypt. Yet now, Solomon tells the people that God has an address—in Jerusalem, at the holy temple. Suddenly by this account, a certain place on the planet is holier than others, and may be used in getting answers to one’s prayers. At least, Solomon prays to God that it might be so. His prayer acknowledges that God will only be found in the temple by God’s own choice—divine freedom will not be infringed upon. Nevertheless, Solomon pleads with God to be available at the temple, answering faithful prayers of Hebrews, pilgrims and exiles who pray at the temple or even in its direction. Solomon attempts to identify his temple with the divine, such that those anywhere who want access to the Hebrew God will orient their prayers and pilgrimages to this temple.
God consents to Solomon’s request, according to the Chronicler, who describes God “moving into the neighborhood” with heavenly fire and glory. Solomon leads a great consecration with various offerings, solemn assemblies and prayer. But the identification of God with a building presents a problem: What happens if the temple gets destroyed? Is that the end of the Hebrew religion? In the address to Solomon here, God consents to Solomon’s pleas regarding the temple, but says that the divine inhabitation is conditional. If the people are not obedient, even the finest home for God will not persuade the creator of the world to remain in it. These chapters show us an understanding by which this temple and other religious buildings are held as sacred, yet not worshipped as divine themselves. God always reserves the right to pull up clouds and move on, such that the destruction of a building will not be understood as the death of God as well.
Chapter 8 reads like a combination travelogue and journal for Solomon’s later years. Miscellaneous accounts describe his marriage practices, economic measures, building expansions, and oversight of the priests and Levites. The most interesting thing I found here is the distinction Solomon makes between Jews and non-Jews. Those who were not Jewish were forced into slavery to serve Solomon’s needs, while Jews were overseers, officers and soldiers. Solomon encourages an “us righteous Jews” by rallying against “those people” and subjecting them to slavery. Political demagoguery and ethnic stratification truly are older than the hills. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Chronicles 9-12. Thanks for reading!