Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Pillars of the Temple

a godly society

Two massive bronze pillars stand before Solomon's magnificent temple (1 Kings 7:15-22). They're often thought of as free-standing, but may've supported a projection of the roof. They were probably hollow and were four fingers thick according to the Septuagint.

The one on the south side is Jakin, which "probably means he establishes" while the one on the north side is Boaz, which "probably means in him is strength" according to NIV marginal notes. Wiseman's commentary says "their purpose and significance is yet unknown".

At the coronation of young Joash, we find: "the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was" (2 Kings 11:14). The pillar shows up again at the renewal of the covenant by Josiah, the last good king: "The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD--to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant." (2 Kings 23:3).

The two bronze pillars are last seen being broken up and carried away to Babylon -- along with the king and the people of Judah (2 Kings 25:13-21).

Israel's government rested on a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people. There was a formal agreement between David and the ten tribes: "When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel" (2 Samuel 5:3).

After the death of King Solomon the people wanted to modify the the terms of the compact between people and king "before the LORD" when "Rehoboam" -- Solomon's son -- "went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king" (1 Kings 12:1).

The very first great covenant ceremony had been held in Shechem when Israel entered the promised land (Deuteronomy 27-28; Joshua 8:30-34).

Israel wanted an agreement they could live with more comfortably, which Rehoboam refused, so the ten tribes rejected him (1 Kings 12:1-20). The "people" had a sense of their own power and rights! Thus, after rejecting Rehoboam: "When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam" -- a rebel Solomon had tried to kill -- "had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David." (1 Kings 12:20).

Later, rule was wrested from Judah's Davidic dynasty for six years while wicked Queen Athaliah, daughter of apostate Israel's King Ahab and Jezebel, ruled the land (2 Kings 11:1-3). The pillar shows up again at her downfall when young King Joash was suddenly brought to the fore. "Jehoiada" -- the high priest who had sheltered the infant and toddler from her murderous designs -- "then made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people that they would be the LORD's people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people" (2 Kings 11:17). This took place with "the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was" (2 Kings 11:14).

I believe one temple pillar represents the king; the other the people. The two pillars of Israelite society in covenant relationship with God and each other were the king and the people. Like the temple's two pillars, the king and the people stand in the presence of the LORD, uprightly pledging a just relationship with Him and with each other.

Under God's rule and judgment the king and his subjects each bear responsibilities toward God and toward each other. Good King Jehoshaphat respects king and people "under God" by sending out his officials and the priests to teach the people from "the Book of the Law of the LORD" (2 Chronicles 17:9). He charges them "to administer the law of the LORD and to settle disputes" and to judge "not ... for man but for the LORD". He calls upon them to "serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the LORD" (2 Chronicles 19:4-10).

Paul speaks of : "God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Jude urges us "to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints ... your most holy faith" (Jude 3, 20). These verses allude to "a sacred trust" conveyed by God into the hands of the the people. Many New Testament epistles address groups of the the saints--few address individual leaders!

Paul says: "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me" (Gal. 2:9).

The LORD, the king and the people appear as key parties in the coronation of Saul at the inception of the kingship. "Then Samuel said to the people, "Come, let us go to Gilgal and there reaffirm the kingship. So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the LORD. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the LORD, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration" (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

Apparently concluding this kingship assembly, in the heart of his farewell speech, Samuel speaks of the LORD, the king and the people. The LORD had previously raised up deliverers for them, such as Gideon, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel himself:

"But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, 'No, we want a king to rule over us'--even though the LORD your God was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God--good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers." (1 Samuel 12:12-15).

Samuel's final words of warning: "...be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away" (1 Samuel 12:24-25).

The emphasis on the removal of the bronze pillars in 2 Kings 25:13, 16-17 -- concluding the account of Babylonian looting at the fall of the kingdom -- rings of Samuel's last recorded words -- "if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away"! They were swept away, as Samuel had warned (vs. 21).

I believe that one pillar before the temple stands for the king, and the other pillar stands for the people -- in a covenant relationship "in the presence of the LORD" and thus -- "under God"!

Reference:

1 & 2 Kings: an introduction and commentary
by Donald J. Wiseman, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1993.

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