Our reading begins today with the Ark of the Covenant being brought into the Temple. Solomon wants to bring it out of the city of David, which is Zion (8:1). This is the older portion of the city (the original Jerusalem, which has now expanded greatly) to the south of the Temple. In verse 4, we see that the Tabernacle along with the vessels used in worship and sacrifice are brought up from Gibeon. In verse 9, we are told specifically that there was nothing in the Ark except the tablets. Previously, both a jar of manna (Ex 16:33-34) and Aaron’s budding staff (Num 17:10-11) were placed “before the testimony” in the Lord’s presence. This has been taken by many to mean that these were placed in the Ark. That the writer of 1 Kings expressly mentions that only the tablets were there at this time would indicate one of two things: either he was correcting the misunderstanding that anything other than the tablets were ever in the Ark, or the manna and the staff were no longer there (perhaps stolen by the Philistines when they took the Ark?). Hebrews 9:4 indicates that these were, in fact, in the Ark when it resided in the Tabernacle.
After the Ark is brought into the Temple, the glory cloud fills the Temple (vv. 10-11). The Ark and the cloud both represent the presence of God. In verse 12, Solomon recognizes that these are representations because God cannot be seen. Solomon then credits his father with the desire to build the Temple (v. 17), and praises God for fulfilling His promise to allow Solomon to build it (v. 15, 19-20). Solomon then prays a prayer to dedicate the Temple (vv. 22-53). He prays that God would fulfill His covenant with David (vv. 25-26), which He will in Christ, Who is also the answer to Solomon’s next question: will God dwell on the earth (v. 27). Solomon understands that God is not limited by space, yet will limit Himself to space in order to fulfill His covenant with David (v. 28).
Solomon then prays that when His people pray to Him, He would hear (v. 30). In verses 31-40, Solomon prays that sins would be forgiven if repentance is offered. In verses 41-43, Solomon prays that God would save even Gentiles who turn to Him. In verses 44-45, Solomon prays that God would fight Israel’s battles if they are obedient. In verses 46, Solomon specifically addresses Israel going into captivity, and prays in verses 47-53 that if they repent, God would forgive them and restore them.
In verse 56, Solomon declares that Israel has entered into their promised rest and that God has fulfilled every promise He made through the Mosaic Covenant. In verses 57-61, he recognizes that they were given the blessings by grace, but that obedience would be necessary to keep the blessings. Solomon ends the dedication with an extravagant sacrifice to God, and a week-long feast (vv. 62-66). In chapter 9, God answers Solomon’s prayer of dedication (9:3). God them emphasizes the conditionality of Solomon’s – and Israel’s – inclusion in the Davidic Covenant (vv. 4-9). All that God threatens here will happen to Israel.
In 9:10-14, we have a peculiar story about Solomon giving Hiram a gift to thank him for all the supplies he gave for the building of the Temple. This included all the wood needed, and about 9,000 pounds of gold (v. 11, 14). So Solomon gives him twenty cities in the north of Israel (v. 11). But Hiram is disappointed in the gift (v. 12). These cities collectively earned the nickname “Cabul,” which means “fettered”, likely because Hiram felt like he was fettered (as in, stuck) with something worthless. While this may seem like a story about an ungrateful Gentile king, there is more going on here.
Solomon spent 20 years focused on the building of the Temple and his palace (v. 10). He spent a massive amount of resources expanding the city of Jerusalem to hold the Temple and his palace. The “Millo” (literally “filling”) referenced in verses 15 and 24 is speaking of the massive project Solomon undertook to actually expand the mountain that Jerusalem sat on so he could expand the city! He also built (using forced labor from his own people, remember – see 5:13) the wall around Jerusalem (v. 15), the city that his father-in-law gave to Solomon’s wife after destroying it (vv. 15-17), his wife’s own house (v. 24), and store cities to hold all of his chariots and to house his horsemen (v. 19). Notice that between the Egyptian tie, all of the extravagance, and the need to build cities just to store chariots and horsemen, Solomon is doing exactly what God forbade Israel’s kings to do (see Deut 17:16-17).
How does all of this tie in with the cities Solomon fettered Hiram with? I think what is being implied is that while Solomon lived extravagantly and spent a great fortune on his various building projects, the rest of Israel suffered. Between the forced labor (though not slaves – see v. 22) and them having to live in cities that a king wouldn’t even want as a possession, Solomon’s was neglecting his duty to his people. While he had fame and fortune (as we will see in chapter 10), Solomon had lost his way.
Psalm 127 is a Song of Ascents written by Solomon, perhaps during the building of the Temple at the height of his kingdom. Solomon recognized at one point in his life that any good that was to be done, was God’s to do. Solomon can build the Temple, and Jerusalem, and the kingdom. But if it is not of the Lord, it will come to nothing (127:1). Man can work harder and smarter, but if the Lord is not in it, it is in vain (v. 2). Solomon then speaks of children. This would be the line of David that would rule forever if they were obedient to the Lord. They, too, are from God (v. 3). Solomon compares them to the arrows of a warrior (v. 4). They are the means by which the king advances his kingdom like a warrior advances on his enemies. This is Solomon looking forward to a physical fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant through him. He is not wrong (see Matt 1:6-7), but God won’t do it as Solomon expects. He will do it through Christ.