Sunday, April 26, 2009

Solomon and the House of the Forest of Lebanon

While Solomon was building the House of the Lord, he was also building his own house and the House of the Forest of Lebanon. The Temple of the Lord took 7 years to build and Solomon’s personal house took 13 years to build. I Kings 7:1. In addition Solomon also built a house for his wife – Pharaoh’s daughter.

The House of the Forest of Lebanon is the building that the Bible chooses to focus upon and gives the most descriptions of what the building looked like. It was 100 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. This would be translated to 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high – this is equal to about 4 stories high in a building today. In addition the length of the building would be equivalent to a 15-story building laid on it side. It was a large building. In the building there were 4 rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams, and covered with cedar. There are some traditions that say that the 4 rows of cedar pillars were actual cedars and the whole building was supported by 45 pillars. Thus, according to some traditions the inside of the house looked, and smelled like a forest of cedars. In addition, Solomon had 200 targets of gold – 600 shekels of gold apiece, and 300 hundred shields at 300 shekels of gold apiece, placed in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. II Chronicles 9:15-16. There were also drinking vessels in this house and they were all made of gold and none of silver. II Chronicles 9:20

Now, the interesting point of this whole building is that there is no stated purpose for the building. It was big; it was set with costly and hewed stones some of 10 cubits length and some of 8 cubits length. I Kings 7:9-11. So there was a lot of thought and expense that went into the building but with no stated purpose for the building that is clearly stated in the Bible or in the vague historical accounts that have come to us. So we can assume that the House of the Forest of Lebanon was a banquet place, or it could have been some kind of armory due to the shields, but no spears. John Bunyan even thought this house could have actually been in Lebanon facing Damascus. Song of Solomon 7:4 http://acacia.pair.com/Acacia.John.Bunyan/Sermons.Allegories/House.Forest.Lebanon/I.html

Another perspective is that provided by Ellen White in her book Prophets and Kings page 54-55, that discusses Solomon and his thinking about events. She poses the following ideas about Solomon and his buildings.

"The king's alliances and commercial relations with heathen nations brought him renown, honor, and the riches of this world. He was enabled to bring gold from Ophir and silver from Tarshish in great abundance. "The king made silver and gold at Jerusalem as plenteous as stones, and cedar trees made he as the sycamore trees that are in the vale for abundance." 2 Chronicles 1:15. Wealth, with all its attendant temptations, came in Solomon's day to an increasingly large number of people; but the fine gold of character was dimmed and marred.

So gradual was Solomon's apostasy that before he was aware of it; he had wandered far from God. Almost imperceptibly he began to trust less and less in divine guidance and blessing, and to put confidence in his own strength. Little by little he withheld from God that unswerving obedience which was to make Israel a peculiar people, and he conformed more and more closely to the customs of the surrounding nations. Yielding to the temptations incident to his success and his honored position, he forgot the Source of his prosperity. An ambition to excel all other nations in power and grandeur led him to pervert for selfish purposes the heavenly gifts hitherto employed for the glory of God. The money, which should have been held in sacred trust for the benefit of the worthy poor and for the extension of principles of holy living throughout the world, was selfishly absorbed in ambitious projects.

Engrossed in an overmastering desire to surpass other nations in outward display, the king overlooked the need of acquiring beauty and perfection of character. In seeking to glorify himself before the world, he sold his honor and integrity. The enormous revenues acquired through commerce with many lands were supplemented by heavy taxes…"

Solomon had many building projects; he built the House of the Forest of Lebanon, his own palace, a palace for the daughter of Pharaoh, a porch of pillars, a porch for holding court, he built to the fort of Millo, rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem, built Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer; and then he also built Baalath, Tadmor, and his storage cities, and all of the support systems for his horses and chariots. I Kings 7:1-12; I Kings 9:15-19

After all of these building projects Solomon eventually got involved with building temples to all of his wives gods. So Solomon was a very busy man when it came to building things. His purposes in building started out well but he eventually began to build, not just for the glory of God, or the functionality of the state, but for personal vanity and aggrandizement. When he came to the point of vanity building he was no longer in harmony with the will of God for God does not do things for vanity alone. He does only those things that fulfill a purpose and brings people to a deeper relationship with God.

I pray that we to can learn lessons from Solomon even in the area of building things. We need to bring all of our plans to God and to be willing to surrender them to His will if they are leading us away from God. As in all things, building projects, of various kinds, takes resources of planning, energy, and monies. The project may be good in and of itself but we must be willing to ask God if our pet project will exalt Him or exalt ourselves at the expense of God. If it will not be for the glory of God then it would be wise for us to use those resources to accomplish something for God and give all glory to Him.

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