Solomon's Temple: The Altar Equal to the Holiest

2 Chronicles 3:1‑4:5  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 7
(Read 2 Chron. 3:1-4:51Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 2And he began to build in the second day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign. 3Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God. The length by cubits after the first measure was threescore cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits. 4And the porch that was in the front of the house, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the height was an hundred and twenty: and he overlaid it within with pure gold. 5And the greater house he cieled with fir tree, which he overlaid with fine gold, and set thereon palm trees and chains. 6And he garnished the house with precious stones for beauty: and the gold was gold of Parvaim. 7He overlaid also the house, the beams, the posts, and the walls thereof, and the doors thereof, with gold; and graved cherubims on the walls. 8And he made the most holy house, the length whereof was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits: and he overlaid it with fine gold, amounting to six hundred talents. 9And the weight of the nails was fifty shekels of gold. And he overlaid the upper chambers with gold. 10And in the most holy house he made two cherubims of image work, and overlaid them with gold. 11And the wings of the cherubims were twenty cubits long: one wing of the one cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was likewise five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub. 12And one wing of the other cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was five cubits also, joining to the wing of the other cherub. 13The wings of these cherubims spread themselves forth twenty cubits: and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward. 14And he made the vail of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon. 15Also he made before the house two pillars of thirty and five cubits high, and the chapiter that was on the top of each of them was five cubits. 16And he made chains, as in the oracle, and put them on the heads of the pillars; and made an hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains. 17And he reared up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz. 1Moreover he made an altar of brass, twenty cubits the length thereof, and twenty cubits the breadth thereof, and ten cubits the height thereof. 2Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 3And under it was the similitude of oxen, which did compass it round about: ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about. Two rows of oxen were cast, when it was cast. 4It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward. 5And the thickness of it was an handbreadth, and the brim of it like the work of the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies; and it received and held three thousand baths. (2 Chronicles 3:1‑4:5))
It would require a large volume to trace fully the glory of Christ as shadowed in this portion of the word. My desire, in this short paper, is to help you with a few thoughts to the closer study of the word of God.
I hope you will not think that I am about to give any supposed authority from Solomon's temple for the building of so-called christian places of worship. The Lord Jesus promised that the Holy Ghost should come, and guide the disciples into all truth. The Holy Ghost did come, and did guide the apostles and the early Church into all truth. And is it not most clear, from the Acts and the Epistles, that the Holy Ghost did not, after He came, guide the Church to build any places of worship on earth? No, not one. The Christian worship is purely spiritual. Wherever believers were found on earth, in spirit they entered heaven itself with their great High Priest, and worshiped in the holiest.
The New Testament Scriptures, however, clearly recognize a spiritual building—of which Solomon's temple, I do not doubt, will be found to be in some interesting particulars a type.
The Epistle to the Ephesians especially describes this risen, heavenly spiritual building. Believers "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Eph. 2:20-2220And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20‑22). What a building! and what a builder! "Ye are God's building." (See 1 Cor. 2:8-118Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:8‑11).) With these, and many other passages of the Word describing the spiritual building, let us now turn to Solomon's temple for instruction.
And first, the materials of which the temple was built. Great stones and lofty trees. God is pleased thus to picture the two conditions of those whom He brings, and builds, in Christ the heavenly temple. Man is a great sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, and yet he is a lofty Pharisee.
In a former tract, "GREAT STONES AND COSTLY," I have dwelt a little on the exceeding greatness of the power of God to usward, in the raising from the dead the Lord Jesus—the chief corner-stone—and in raising us up, though dead sinners, in Him. Let us now see the way in which the lofty trees of Lebanon were brought to the temple at Jerusalem.
Solomon sent to Huram, saying, "Send me also cedar trees, fir trees, and Algum trees, out of Lebanon: (for I know that thy servants can skill to cut timber in Lebanon;) and, behold, my servants shall be with thy servants, even to prepare me timber in abundance: for the house which I am about to build shall be wonderful great." 2 Chron. 2:8, 98Send me also cedar trees, fir trees, and algum trees, out of Lebanon: for I know that thy servants can skill to cut timber in Lebanon; and, behold, my servants shall be with thy servants, 9Even to prepare me timber in abundance: for the house which I am about to build shall be wonderful great. (2 Chronicles 2:8‑9). Huram replied, "We will cut wood out of Lebanon, as much as thou shalt need: and we will bring it to thee in floats by sea to Joppa; and thou shalt carry it up to Jerusalem." v. 16.
Thus there was only one way for every tree used in building the temple. The ax, the ax; stoke after stroke, until the lofty tree lies flat and dead, severed from every root of nature. And then down, down, down the slopes of Lebanon, right down into the water. It must go into the water at the foot of Lebanon before it can be taken out of the water at Joppa—and it must be put into the water, and taken out of the water, before it can be carried up to Jerusalem's temple. There was no overland route for a single tree.
The ax, the fall, down into the water, symbol of death: out of death into the temple. Could there be a more concise, or striking picture of God's way of bringing man to Himself?
Let us compare it with one or two examples. Now Saul of Tarsus was not only a great sinner—he says, "the chief of sinners"—but he was also the most lofty pharisee that ever waved his head on the moral Lebanon of man. He was a cedar tree of the cedar trees; a fir tree of the fir trees; "a Hebrew of the Hebrews"—never was there a straighter moral fir tree, or more lofty religious cedar. But when the word of God, which is quick and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, entered his soul, yes, when Jesus said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" the lofty cedar fell flat on the ground. Then did he find that even his religious zeal was his greatest wickedness.
What a felling! What a severing from every fancied root of goodness, from every trust in himself as a natural man! All had to become dross and dung. Down, down, down, until he is nothing, and Christ is all. Yes, for three days in darkness it was down, down to the water, symbol of death, and the lofty Pharisee was buried by baptism into the likeness of the death of Christ. And as the trees were put in the water at the foot of Lebanon, and raised out at Joppa, so Saul was buried with
Christ in death, and the new man Paul was raised out of death, possessed of the new life, even one with the risen Christ.
It was so with the eunuch. The scripture which he read was opened, and stroke after stroke was given; Jesus, the holy One, must needs die for his sins; He was led as a sheep to the slaughter. "His life is taken away from the earth." Where is man's religiousness? Where his lofty pride—if he is so utterly lost in sin that the Son of God must thus come and suffer for his sins? And He has thus come, and has thus suffered even unto death, forsaken of God. The fine straight worshiper from Jerusalem bows his head; he falls down, down; he justified God. He says, Here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And again, like our trees of Lebanon, they went down into the water, and came up again out of the water.
Now if you will read carefully the Acts, you will find this was the only way to the spiritual temple of the Holy Ghost: "Hearing, they believed and were baptized." Acts 18:88And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. (Acts 18:8). Do not forget the only way the trees traveled to Jerusalem. Do not mistake; God's only way of bringing you to Himself is through the death and resurrection of Christ. Read very carefully on this, Rom. 6:3-113Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:3‑11). "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
I grant you it is a hard struggle to give up all pretensions to righteousness; to be crucified with Christ, dead with Him, buried with Him, into His very death. Many Christians struggle desperately to keep a little footing on Lebanon. What a mistake! Now is it not most blessed to see not only my sins judged on the cross, but all that I am condemned once for all on the cross, and buried with the holy Sin-bearer in the grave of His death. Do not you see that all that can be condemned has been, and is thus, condemned, so that there is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.
We shall have to notice shortly where and how these materials were placed in the temple, but having thus seen the route of the trees of the building, let us next notice the building itself with its wondrous lessons of instruction.
When Solomon began to build, God gave him very exact measurements. "The length by cubits after the first measure was threescore cubits and the breadth twenty cubits. And the porch that was in the front, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the height an hundred and twenty, and he overlaid it within with pure gold." In verse 8, "He made the most holy house: the length whereof was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits; and the breadth thereof twenty cubits: and he overlaid it with fine gold, amounting to six hundred talents." That is about 3,285,000 pounds. 
The first point of measurement I notice is this: The length of the porch, or way into the temple, is according to the breadth of the holiest—twenty cubits. The holy house symbolized the presence of God; and the porch, or way into that presence was according to the divine presence itself. Do you see this? A few of the words of the Lord Jesus will make it plain: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me. If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also': and from henceforth ye know Him and have seen Him." And again, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
These few words of the Lord Jesus make the matter most clear. The way, or porch, is according to or equal to the holiest. Jesus is the way, and He is equal to the divine presence; for He is God. And he that has seen Jesus, has seen the Father also. God could not have opened a more glorious way to Himself for lost sinners; for the Son of God has died, and risen again, that He may be the way; as it is written, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh." Heb. 10:1919Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (Hebrews 10:19).
Not only was the length of the porch equal to the breadth of the holiest; but what a height! what boldness we have in Jesus to enter! Do you
Before we go on to the next interesting point in the measurement, we will return, and see where the stones and trees were placed in the temple, and thus learn a little more of the counsels of God as to those that are in the spiritual building.
All, whether stones or trees, were overlaid with pure gold. Jesus alone, the righteous One, the righteousness of God, can be set forth or symbolized by "pure gold"; as He says, "I counsel thee to buy of Me pure gold." (Rev. 3.) And not only was every tree and stone overlaid with pure gold, completely covered out of sight—not a notch of the fir being seen—but also there were "graved cherubim on the walls." Believing God, who "raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification," it (that is, righteousness) is reckoned unto us (Rom. 6). As the pure gold overlaid or covered the trees and stones, so Jesus has been raised from the dead, to be our ever subsisting righteousness. Not a notch of the old tree was to be seen. God could make no mistake; He raised up the Holy One, who had died for our sins, to be in resurrection our everlasting and subsisting righteousness. As God looked in the temple He saw only the pure gold. Even so in the heavenly building in Christ: "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved."
Furthermore, do you ask, But where are the cherubim graved on the pure gold that covers the wall? Look up by faith at Jesus our subsisting righteousness in the presence of God: what are those wounds on that pure and glorified body? do they not answer to the cherubim graved on the wall? Cherubim in Scripture set forth the consuming judgment of God (Eze. 19), as seraphim are the burning purification of God (Isa. 6), but both are taking action from the fire of the altar: the consuming judgment of God against sin as endured by Jesus, Son of God, on the cross. By this is all the believer's sin put away; or by this, according to this, must the rejecter of Christ be forever under the judgment and wrath of God. The ways of God are equal. He has shown what His wrath against sin is once on Calvary, and can He show less wrath to the lost soul, after rejecting pardon, then He showed His beloved Son when hanging on the accursed tree, the Sin-bearer?
God is just, and the justifier. He who is our everlasting righteousness bears in His own body the marks of the consuming cherubim judgments, once endured for us, on Calvary. This is an all important subject; for the better we know the righteousness of God, the more solid will be our peace.
Just notice how this truth of the cherubim is repeated, and enforced. There is the cherubim graved on the fine gold. He who is our righteousness did first endure the consuming judgment due to sin.
Then "In the most holy house he made two cherubim of image work and overlaid them with gold;" and the utmost care is taken to show that the span of the cherubim's wings was the exact breadth of the holiest. "The wings of these cherubim spread themselves forth twenty cubits; and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward." Not one cubit short of the breadth of the holiest. Can anything give more solid peace than this: that the consuming judgment of God on sin was according to God's own measure of sin? Not our thought of sin, not our measure: but according to the divine presence—the twenty cubits of the holiest: twenty cubits, the length of the porch: twenty cubits, the breadth of the holiest: and twenty cubits the span of the cherubim's wings. He who was with God, and was God, He is the way; and He bore the divine judgment, according to what God is.
Furthermore: not only were cherubim graved on the wall, and cherubim stretching their wings the full width of the most holy house; but on that veil of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen were wrought cherubim. Nothing short of the divine judgment on sin could open the new way into the holiest; but since Jesus has borne that wrath due to us, sin is now put away, and the veil rent from top to bottom—where man could not by any means be brought, we now have "boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus; by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." What a contrast to the Jews' religion of old! No veil with wrought cherubim now, to hide God from man, and keep sinful man from God. The blood has been shed; sin is put away. Divine judgment has been executed; the veil is rent, and by one offering everlasting in its efficacy. How loud those types of old spake out the fact that Jesus must needs suffer the atoning death! And our happy place now, in the presence of God, as loudly proclaims the work is done.