The Spirit of God has been pleased to give us an interesting comparison with the last two verses of chapter six and the first verse of chapter seven of the Book of I Kings, where the historian records the following facts. “In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, in the month of Ziv. In the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished throughout all its parts and according to all its plans. So he was seven years in building it. Now Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house” (6:37, 38; 7:1). Two chapters later, these facts are echoed: “It came about at the end of twenty years in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the Lord and the king’s house . . . “ (9:10).
Commentators generally seem willing to justify Solomon’s endeavors at this time. For example, one observes that he was “at this time animated with strong feelings of piety” and that his actions prefigured the Lord’s instructions in Matthew: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (6:33). Others explain that the disparity in the length of time required to build the two structures resulted from a greater sense of urgency to get the temple erected than to complete Solomon’s palace and the greater preparation that had been involved in the building of the temple. Another observes that Solomon’s house took longer to build because it was larger than the temple, having 11,250 square feet of floor space as opposed to only 2,700 square feet for the temple.
Those may be valid observations, and given the absence of direct inspired comment on the matter, it is wise to be careful. But the truth is that the juxtaposing of these facts seems intended to provoke a comparison in the minds of readers. Doubtless the time of this building represented the apex of Solomon’s piety. But can the building of his house legitimately be called a prefiguring of Matthew 6:33? It seems rather that Solomon himself is “adding” here, rather than the Lord. Scripture might even hint that there is something somewhat unseemly about the motivation behind such an extensive endeavor. The writer of I Kings records that “this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the Lord, [and] his own house” (9:15).
The very fact that commentators seem to feel compelled to justify the disparity lends weight to the notion that the observed contrast is intended to provoke thought. Was the act of building this magnificent palace an overt act of sin? Probably not. But did it reveal an early propensity toward the lustful excesses that would later bring God’s judgment on King Solomon? Quite possibly. At the height of his fervor and devotion, Solomon disciplined his body and made it his slave, as Paul would say a millennium later (I Cor. 9:27). But the flesh was still there and would all too soon manifest itself in a destructive manner. At the very least, the time Solomon spent building his own palace versus the time he spent building the temple looks inappropriate. And given what followed in his life, the discrepancy might have served as a red flag concerning the tendencies of his flesh.
But the ultimate question for us, regardless of the propriety of Solomon’s actions, remains: How much time are we spending building our own houses as opposed to the house of the Lord? How much time, effort, and energy do we devote to serving the Lord as opposed to pursuing our own selfish pursuits? Clearly, Solomon needed a house. And just as clearly, there are practical considerations that demand a good portion of our time, energy, and other resources. But how much of our lives are devoted to temporal pursuits rather than eternal pursuits? I’m afraid that many of us would have to admit that Solomon might still put us to shame. Not only was his ratio of approximately 1:2 better than ours but he also did put the building of the temple ahead of the building of his own house. So whatever the ultimate view we might take regarding what Scripture says about Solomon’s two buildings, we ought to be provoked to examine our own lives, build God’s house, and allow God to add to us as He will.
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