29 Apr 2023

Temple & Chronicles: The Immense Importance of the Temple In the Last Book of the Hebrew Bible

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: A Gathered People, Chronicles, Grace, Heaven, Worship

He [Yahweh] chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves.
He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth which he has founded forever

(Psalm 78.68-69, NRSV)

The Temple was of immense importance in the life and theology, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, of Israel. And it is of spectacular importance in the last book of the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles. I will summarize what I think the temple is all about in Chronicles, in a single line.

The Temple recapitulates God’s purposes for creation. Immanuel.

That is creation was intended to be the place where God lived with that which was created out of love. God dwelled with Adam/Eve in the Garden. God does so again in the Temple. The Temple is Immanuel. If we do not grasp how profound this is, we will end up missing and misunderstanding quite a bit in the Hebrew Bible.

When we sit down and read Chronicles attentively, knowing the author (i.e. Chronicler) has the whole history of Israel already laid in older writings, we recognize instantly the Chronicler uses those sources to fashion a Spirit guided message for his own day. And what a message it is. The Temple, what the temple represents, is of central importance and is seen as one of the keys to the whole history of Israel.

So when the Chronicler tells the story of the Temple’s dedication he invokes the earlier tabernacle narrative from Israel’s foundation in the Exodus. But it is not Exodus alone that is invoked but the creation account itself in Genesis. It is common knowledge that the Bible conceives the temple as a microcosm of the entire creation. This we have seen already in the quoted Psalm above. In Chronicles we find the echoes of those events, creation and creation of the tabernacle. These echoes are intentional and rest on the conviction that the hearers of Chronicles will deeply resonate with the connections.

The Temple is dedicated in the seventh year of Solomon’s reign, during the seventh month (Tishrei), during the festival of Tabernacles, a feast that lasts seven days (2 Chronicles 5.3; 7.8-10; Leviticus 23.33-43; Deuteronomy 16.13-15), Solomon’s prayer is divided into seven petitions before the “church/ἐκκλησίαν Ισραηλ” (6.2 [2x], 12; Hebrew, qahal, LXX = ekklesia. . The Septuagint uses the term ekklesia repeatedly in Chronicles). At the conclusion of the prayer, Solomon says,

Arise now, O LORD God and go to your resting place …

Two things. First, “LORD God” is used 3x in 2 Chronicles 6.41-42 just as it is throughout Genesis 2, “and the LORD God made …” Second, after the Lord God finished his work, he “rested.” Solomon now invites the Lord God to enter into his “rest.”

Another Eden/creation connection. David donated “all sorts of precious stones … onyx” that were in abundance according to Genesis 2.12.

One of the disciplines of properly reading the Bible is to read the whole narrative. In this way the Bible is like any other book. The book of Chronicles, and only Chronicles, tells us that Solomon placed two large pillars before the temple, one on the right and one on the left. Solomon named them, “Jachin” and “Boaz.” They mean Strength and Stability. Throughout the Hebrew Bible we learn of pillars or foundations of creation or that God established creation upon pillars (Psalms 18.15; 75.3; 82.5; 102.25; 104.5; Isa. 48.13; etc). Boaz seems to be named for David’s ancestor and if this is the case, then the two pillars point to the stability God gave the cosmos at creation and is maintained by the descendants of David in the house built for God’s rest. When Israelites speak of the foundations/pillars of creation all they have to do is look to the right or to the left and see that God is holding the universe together.

Why all these connections to the creation narrative and the tabernacle narrative (which is itself rooted in the creation story of Genesis)? Because the temple is the microcosm of all creation. What Yahweh does to, with and through the Temple, God intends to do to creation. Creation is not some irrelevant datum in the biblical narrative but the object of both God’s creative love and creative redemption. Creation matters, the Temple shows us.

I will save the notion of “rest” for another day. But brief comment is necessary. Previously Solomon had asked “But will God indeed reside with mortals? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built?” (6.18). For God to enter his rest is to condescend in incredible grace and dwell with/live with humanity. The Temple is “Heaven on earth.” Or the place where heaven and earth interlock. A microcosm of all creation.

The Chronicler is suggesting that God is doing in the Temple what he intended to do in Eden. God is dwelling with and in the midst of his creation. Israel, and specifically the Davidic King, functions like a new Adam in the presence of God supposedly reflecting the Glory of the Lord back out into the world to bless it and heal it. God’s people are a “church” that was created for the praise of Yahweh … they are Kingdom of Priests on behalf of the world. And the “Good News” is, according to the Chronicler, God did! God came to dwell. In response to the prayer and its echoes of the creation and tabernacle narratives, God entered the created world.

When Solomon had ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. The priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down on the pavement with their faces on the ground and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying,

‘For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever’


God has come to dwell in the midst of his church/people. Humanity (assembled Israel) is again in the Presence of God. God is indeed good!

This ‘rest’ is something the Hebrew Preacher has not given up on … this Sabbath Rest. Of when the world is everything God ever dreamed for it. The Temple is the proclamation of what that rest is and looks like.

And as I finish this post I have to say this. I have been reading deeply this ignored book of the Hebrew Bible and even this ignored book shows me just how wrong Andy Stanley (and all those who give him the “Amen”). The theology of Chronicles, especially worship and the Temple, pulses with that of Jesus, the writer of the Gospel of John and especially the book of Revelation. I want to call it “Incarnational theology!”

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Revelation 21.3).


One Response to “Temple & Chronicles: The Immense Importance of the Temple In the Last Book of the Hebrew Bible”

  1. Sharon Leighton Says:

    Some time ago, I studied Chronicles intensely. It was presented to me as a history book, essentially irrelevant to the church today. Throughout the study, I felt that both I and the sources I was using were missing something important. I think you’ve nailed what we were missing.

    Thank you for your intelligent originality.

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