My Temple, My Bride

The description of Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6 employs a number of anatomical terms: The temple has a “face” (v. 3), “ribs” (vv. 5, 8), and “shoulders” (7:39). The language makes it clear that already in the OT the temple is “humaniform.”

We can be more specific: The “ribs” of the temple are particularly intriguing, in that they suggest a connection between the temple and the creation of Eve in Genesis 2:21-22. In fact, three words from those verses appear in 1 Kings 6:

-Yahweh God took a “rib” from Adam, and Solomon’s temple is surrounded by “ribs.”
-Yahweh God closed the flesh “underneath,” using the same word translated as “lowest” in 1 Kings 6:6.
-Yahweh God “built” (Heb. banah) a woman for Adam; the same verb is used repeatedly in 1 Kings 6 (vv. 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, etc.).

Solomon is presented as a new and greater Adam. He is given discernment to know good and evil (1 Kings 3:9, 11-12). He “has dominion” over a large area of land (1 Kings 4:21, 24). He speaks of all plants and all categories of living things (4:33-34). In 1 Kings 6-7, Solomon shows himself a superior Adam again: In the beginning, Yahweh God built a bride for Adam; Solomon, the greater Adam, builds a bride-house for Yahweh.

This bridal context sheds some light on the purpose of the temple. Yahweh takes a masculine role by “entering” and “dwelling in” the temple, embraced by the feminine temple and city. Anyone else who tries to enter the holy place is committing sacrilege and a form of rape.

Yahweh tells Solomon that if he is faithful, the Lord will “dwell among the sons of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel” (1 Kings 6:13). This is marital language: God as Husband dwells with His people, and will not abandon His bride (cf. Hosea 4:7-10; Revelation 21:3).

The temple-bride connection is evident in a number of other portions of Scripture. In several places in the Song of Songs, Solomon describes his bride using architectural imagery (4:4; 7:4; 8:10), mixed with abundant garden imagery (e.g., 4:1-15; 5:1).

Several of the garden images in the poem have parallels in the temple adornments: The bride’s temples are like pomegranates (4:3), and there are pomegranates around the capitals of the two monumental bronze pillars at the temple (1 Kings 7:18). Her breasts are like fawns among lilies (Song of Songs 4:5), and the capitals of the pillars are lily shape (1 Kings 7:19). She stands like a palm tree, with her breasts each a cluster of fruit (Song of Songs 7:7-8), and there are palm trees carved into the walls of the temple (1 Kings 6:29, 32, 35).

Revelation shows that the whole city has become bride (21:1ff.), which is consistent with the imagery of “Daughter Jerusalem” throughout the prophets. The city-bride is adorned with jewels like the breastplate of the priest, suggesting that the city-bride is also a sanctuary.

The bride-temple imagery is also evident in John’s gospel. Jesus’ promise to raise up the destroyed temple of his body in three days comes on the heels of His revelation as the Bridegroom at the wedding of Cana (John 2:1-22). In the following chapter, John identifies Jesus explicitly as the bridegroom (3:29), and, as Warren Gage has shown, the “search for the bride” runs through the rest of John and into Revelation. Running alongside, and intertwined with this theme, is Jesus” declaration about raising the temple. Bride and temple thus provide two key symbolic coordinates of the gospel as a whole.

Jesus is referring to His personal body-temple when He talks about raising it up on the third day. He is also referring to His bridal body-temple, the disciples. They too are “destroyed” and “raised up” on the third day.

Remarkably, John does not inform us that the disciples flee when Jesus is arrested; they are with him when he enters the garden (John 18:1), and Jesus demands that they be released (v. 8). Then they simply disappear from the scene, until Peter shows up at the high priest’s house (vv. 15-27). This is the destruction of the temple, the bride of Bridegroom.

Jesus goes alone to the cross, but in His resurrection He not only meets Mary in a Garden, but also meets His disciples (20:19-23), and later He renews table fellowship with them (21:1ff.).

The temple is the totus Christus, the whole Christ, Jesus the Head and His bridal-body. Both are destroyed; both are raised on the third day.

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