« Prev Chapter XV. The Ideal Significance of the Temple. Next »




1 Kings vii. 13-51, viii. 12-61.

"The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.... But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth."—John iv. 21, 23.

Five long chapters of the First Book of Kings are devoted to the description of Solomon's Temple, which occupies a still larger space in the Books of Chronicles. The Temple was regarded as the permanent form of the ancient Tabernacle,290290   The scepticism of modern critics, who doubt whether there ever was a Tabernacle in the wilderness at all, seems to be insufficiently grounded. which is described with lengthy and minute detail in Exodus. It might seem, therefore, that there must be some clear explanation of the idea which this sacred building was intended to embody. Yet it is by no means easy to ascertain what this idea was, and those who have deeply studied the question have in age after age been led to widely different views.

1. Philo and Josephus,291291   Vit. Mos., iii.; Antt., III. vi. 4, vii. 7; B. J., VII. v. 5. with certain variations of detail, regard it as a symbol of the universe—the world of idea and the world of sense. Thus the seven-branched173 candlestick represents the seven planets; the twelve cakes of shewbread are the twelve signs of the Zodiac; the court is the earth; the sanctuary the sea; and the oracle the heavens. The theory derives no importance from its authorship. Neither Philo nor Josephus, nor the Rabbis, nor the Fathers who adopted their views,292292   E.g., Origen (Hom., ix.), Clement of Alexandria (Strom., v.), Theodoret (Qu., xl. in Exod.), Jerome (Ep., lxiv.), and others. See Kalisch, Exodus, p. 495. have the least authority in such matters; and Philo, who led the way in mystical interpretation, abounds in fantasies which are ludicrously impossible, and are now universally rejected.

2. The Talmudists held that the Tabernacle was the exact copy of one in heaven,293293   Wisdom ix. 8: "A copy of the holy tabernacle which Thou didst prepare from the beginning." and that its services reflected those of the heavenly hierarchy. This view went into the extreme of literalism, as the other did into the extreme of spiritualisation. It was based on the text, "Look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount."294294   Exod. xxv. 40, xxvi. 30; Acts vii. 44; Heb. viii. 5. The Book of Chronicles goes so far in this direction as to say that David received from Jehovah the exact pattern of the Temple down to its minutest details, together with the entire priestly and Levitic organisation of its services. "All this," says David to Solomon, "the Lord made me to understand in writing, by His hand upon me, even all the works in the pattern."

3. Christian writers have seen in the Temple an emblem of the visible, the invisible, and the triumphant Church. Such symbolic interpretation depends on the most arbitrary combinations, and does not rise higher174 than an exercise of fancy. It has not the smallest exegetic importance.

4. Luther thought that the Tabernacle and Temple were emblems of human nature:—the court, the sanctuary, and the oracle corresponding to the body, the soul, and the spirit. Later writers have pushed this opinion, already sufficiently baseless, into the absurdest detail.

5. The much simpler view of Maimonides295295   More Nebochim, iii, 45-49; Kalisch, Exodus, p. 497. who is followed by our learned Spencer, is that the Temple was simply the palace of Jehovah, with its vestibule, its audience hall, its Presence-chamber, its attendant courtiers, its throne, and its offerings of food and wine and sacrifice. The simplicity of this conception seems to be in accordance with what we know of ancient forms of worship, and it is certain that in many heathen temples the offerings of food and wine were supposed to be consumed by the god. The name "palace" is, however, only given to the Temple in one chapter (1 Chron. xxix. 1, 19); and the Hebrew, or rather the Persian,296296   The three names given to the Tabernacle are Ohel ("tent"), Mishkan ("tabernacle," "habitation," or "dwelling-place"), and Baith ("house"). It is undoubted that the Tabernacle followed the ordinary construction of the Oriental tent, with its two divisions, of which the interior could not be entered by strangers. word so rendered (bîrah) may also be rendered "fortress."

6. In truth we cannot be sure that the idea of the Temple remained single and definite through so many ages. It was probably a composite and varying emblem, of which the original significance had become mingled with many later elements. It is, however, certain that many numbers and details were symbolical, and there175 was a deep insight and magnificent completeness in the manner in which certain truths were shadowed forth by its construction and its central service.

The book in which its symbolism is most thoroughly worked out is Bähr's Symbolik. He elaborates, in a simpler form, the opinion of Philo, that the Temple represented "the structure which God has erected, the house in which God lives." So far the fact cannot be disputed for, in Exod. xxix. 45 we are told that the Tabernacle is called the "House of God" because "I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel, and will be their God." But Bähr takes a great leap when he proceeds to explain the house of God as "the creation of heaven and earth." If his views were true as a whole, it would indeed be strange that they are not indicated in a single passage either of the Old or New Testaments.

The Tabernacle was called "the Tabernacle of the Testimony" because its two tables of stone were a witness of the covenant between God and man. It was also called "the Tabernacle of Meeting," by which is not meant the place where Israel assembled, but the place where God met Moses and the children of Israel.297297   Numb. xvii. 7, xviii. 2; 2 Chron. xxiv. 6; Acts vii. 44; Exod. xxix. 10, etc.; 1 Kings viii. 4; 2 Chron. viii. 13. The phrase "Tent of Meeting" in the R.V. removes the complete obscuring of the meaning involved by the A.V. rendering of "Tabernacle of the Congregation." "For there will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat," says Jehovah to Moses;298298   Exod. xxv. 22. and "at the entrance of the tent of meeting I will meet with you to speak there unto thee, and there I will meet with the children of Israel."299299   Exod. xxix. 42, 43. Thus,176 in its broadest idea, the Temple brought before the soul of every thoughtful Israelite the three great beliefs, (1) that God deigned to dwell in the midst of His people; (2) that, in His infinite mercy and condescension, He admitted a reciprocity between Himself and His human children; and (3) that the most absolute expression of His will was the moral law, obedience to which was the condition of heavenly favour and earthly happiness.

"In the Porch," says Bishop Hall, "we may see the regenerate soul entering into the blessed society of the Church; in the Holy Place we may see a figure of the Communion of the true visible Church on earth; in the Holy of Holies the glories of Heaven opened to us by our true High Priest Christ Jesus, who entered once for all to make an Atonement betwixt God and man."

« Prev Chapter XV. The Ideal Significance of the Temple. Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |