House of Prayer

House of Prayer April 24, 2017

The Chronicler’s account of the completion of the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 5-7) is arranged in a fairly neat chiasm.

A. Solomon finishes (shalam) work, 2 Chronicles 5:1

B. Solomon celebrates the feast in the seventh month, 5:2

C. Levites take ark into the house, with sacrifices and music; glory fills house 5:3-6:11

D. Solomon’s prayer of dedication, 6:12-42

C’. Fire falls from heaven, glory in house, with sacrifice and music, 7:1-7

B’. Solomon keeps the feast of the seventh month, 7:8-10

A’. Solomon finishes (kalah) the house, 7:11

A and A’ both speak of a completion of the house, but only the latter uses the keyword kalah, the verb used to describe the completion of creation (Genesis 2:1-4) and of the tabernacle. The house isn’t finished when the architectural shell is finished, not even when the ark and other furnishings are taken into the house. The house is fully finished only when it has been dedicated by prayer as a house of prayer.

C and C’ share several of the same elements—the glory of Yahweh fills the house, Levites and priests play music, priests cannot enter the house, sacrifice. But they run in reverse order. In C, the sequence is:

a. Congregation slaughters sheep and oxen, 5:7

b. Levites and priests play music and sing, 5:11-13a

c. House filled with cloud of glory, 5:13b-14

d. Solomon prays, 6:1-11

In C’, the order is:

c’. Fire descends and glory fills the house, 7:1-2

b’. Israel responds with praise, 7:3

a’. King and people offer sacrifice (with music), 7:4-7

Note: The praise in b/b’ is stated in identical terms: “He is good, His lovingkindness everlasting” (5:13; 7:3), and in both c and c’the priests cannot ‘stand to serve” or “enter” the house because “the glory of Yahweh filled the house of Yahweh/Elohim.” We can fill out the sequence if we include the long prayer in chapter 6; it matched Solomon’s prayer of praise in 6:1-11, and reinforces the centrality of prayer in the dedication.

There is a contrast. In c, Yahweh’s descent in glory is a response to the sacrifices and songs of the priests and Levites; in c’, praise, sacrifice, and music are a response to Yahweh’s descent. Overall: Israel praises—>Yahweh descends—>Israel praises. Tis the story of Israel in a nutshell.

At the center of the text is Solomon’s dedicatory prayer. He prays from a bronze platform with dimensions of 5 x 5 x 3 cubits, the same dimensions as the Mosaic altar. His prayer is a form of sacrifice, coming from Solomon who is a living royal sacrifice. Sacrifices and song surround the event; without sacrifice and song, the Lord does not come near. But sacrifice exists to facilitate, to open a path for, the sacrifice of prayer. Solomon dedicates a house of prayer for Israel and the nations.

That is reinforced by another structural features. 7:12-22 dangles outside the chiasm. It doesn’t belong to the following section of 2 Chronicles (8:1 marks a structural break with “it came about at the end of twenty years in which Solomon had build the house”), but it doesn’t fit into the previous section either. Its structural awkwardness catches attention. In some sense, this is the climax of the whole dedication. And 7:12-22 records the Lord’s response to Solomon’s prayer—His promise to place His “eyes and heart” in the temple (7:16) and His threat if “you turn away and forsake My statutes” (7:19). If the temple is a house of prayer, it is also a house where Yahweh receives and assesses prayers, blessing those who keep covenant and cursing those who do not.

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