A House by and for Nations

After David sinfully takes a census of Israel (1 Chronicles 21), the threshing site where he builds the altar that arrests the plague becomes the temple site (1 Chronicles 22:1). David begins preparations for the temple.

First, he gathers the “strangers” (Heb. ger), non-Israelite residents of the land or from territories David has conquered, and puts them to work hewing stone (22:2; cf. 8:29–40). He mines iron for nails and clamps, and smelts so much bronze that it cannot be measured (22:3). Cedar timber, also beyond calculation, comes down from Tyre and Sidon (22:4).

The materials are listed in an order that moves in from the exterior to the interior of the temple. The exterior walls are stone; the metals are explicitly said to be for “gates”; and cedar panels the interior walls. The list is also arranged by increasing value, or increasing sanctity, an order reversed later in the passage (22:14, with gold and silver added).

When Moses built the tabernacle, he raised a contribution from Israel (Exodus 25:1–8). Much of that treasure was plundered from Egypt, but it was donated by Israelite plunderers. Solomon’s temple is different. We aren’t told where the metals come from, but the stone and timber are prepared or donated by Gentiles. Gentiles have a more direct, voluntary role in building Solomon’s temple than they had in building the tabernacle. Yahweh’s house is made out of resources from the nations and made by the nations.

We can push the point further: The temple represents people. It represents the builders. The house of Yahweh is a house for the nations because it is made of material gathered from the nations, because it is a house made of nations. It’s no accident that Solomon is described later in the passage as a man of “rest” (22:8), who is given rest from his enemies. “Rest” is a variation of the name “Noah,” and the temple is analogous to the ark, a place of refuge for the world.

William Johnstone (1 & 2 Chronicles, 1.238) captures the point nicely: “As Israel finds its role, the nations of the world, from whom Israel took its origins, find among God’s people their place in the construction of the new order.”

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