In the loxg period of time between the conquest of the land under Joshua and the establishing of the monarchy, there is comparatively little mention of sacrifice and worship in Israel. The David and Solomon eras changed all this. 1 Kings 6. 1 summarily looks back over the period from the time of the esodus up to the year when the temple project was begun, cf. 2 Chron. 3. 1. The dedication of the first temple, built during Solomon’s reign, provides a kind of watershed for the period we intend to review here. From this vantage point we may glance back over the history of the nation and the tabernacle worship or conversely we may look onward to its approach to God once the temple was built. But first the look back. In the book of Joshua the Passover was celebrated on Israel’s entrance into the land in the plains of Jericho, 5. 10, and an altar of whole stones was built at Mount Ebal on which burnt offerings and peace offerings were sacrificed unto the Lord, 8. 30-33. ‘And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel’, 24. 31.
The book of Judges records the sad story of departure and apostacy in Israel. It covers approximately 450 years, Acts 13. 20. It was Israel’s dark age. The third generation soon forgot the teaching and warnings of the word of God given through Moses and Joshua. The last five chapters of Judges give a vivid and tragic picture of their spiritual, domestic and tribal life. The tabernacle located at Shiloh, Josh. 18. 1; Judg. 21. 19, is in obscurity. But even in those dark days God had a remnant of witnesses. The angel of the Lord appears three times in the book. First, at Bochim where he rebuked the Israelites for their failure to drive out the Canaanites. As a consequence they would be a thorn in their sides and a snare unto them. Hearing this the people wept, and they called the name of the place Bochim (weeping); and they sacrificed unto the Lord, 2. 1-5.
The second appearance was to Gideon, a young man of the small tribe of Manasseh who was threshing corn beside a winepress to hide it from the Mi-dianites. They had invaded the land and were devouring the food supplies. The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, and called and commissioned him to be the deliverer of his famine-stricken people. Recognizing that he was in the presence of God, Gideon’s first act was to prepare and offer a sacrifice. He made ready a kid and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour. The flesh he put in a basket, and the broth in a pot and brought it to the ‘angel’. He was instructed to lay the flesh and the unleavened cakes on the rock and pour out the broth. The angel of the Lord touched the sacrifice with the end of his staff and fire arose from the rock and consumed it. The three items in the sacrifice give us three pictures of Christ as the peace, the meal and the drink offering. Fire out of the Rock consumes it, indicating acceptance, Gideon proceeded to build an altar there unto the Lord and called it ‘Jehovah-Shalom’ (The Lord is peace).
In this instance God dealt with Gideon personally, but his home was defiled by a pagan shrine dedicated to Baal and Ashtarte, the gods of Canaan. The altars to Jehovah and to Baal could not co-exist. The fact that the shrine belonged to his father complicated the situation. Helped by ten men, he did by night what he was afraid to destroy by day. Fortunately his father supported him against the people who wanted to kill him. At God’s command the altar was built on the rock in the ordered manner, and the second bull of 7 years old was sacrificed as a burnt offering. When he and his home were put right, and the highest and most expensive offering they could give was sacrificed, then Gideon started on his God-appointed task of defeating the Mi-dianites and the Amalekites. He had learned the basic lesson that the only way of approach to God, and of worship, is through blood sacrifice.
The third appearance of the angel of the Lord in the book of Judges was to Manoah’s wife, and later to her husband, with the object of announcing the birth of Samson, 13. 3, 13. They were warned that the child was to be a Nazarite from birth. At first they thought the angel was a man. When Manoah asked for his name, the angel replied, ‘Wherefore askest thou after my name, seeing it is Wonderful’. So Manoah took the kid with a meal offering, and offered it upon the rock unto the Lord: and the angel did wondrously, and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar: and Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on then-faces to the ground … Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. But his wife said to him, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meal offering at our hand, neither would he have shown us all these things’, 13. 18-20, 22-23 R.v.
It is interesting that in Israel’s darkest age, the angel of the Lord (a Christophany, that is an appearance of the Lord Jesus in pre-incarnate form) should appear three times, and that on two of these occasions a burnt offering and a meal offering should be offered.
At the end of the book we find another reference to the building of an altar and the offering of burnt and peace offerings at Mizpeh, 21. 4. It was an act of repentance for the civil war which almost exterminated the tribe of Benjamin. In the time of the Judges it is characteristic that God worked through individuals and as soon as the reformer died, the nation collectively relapsed into idolatry. The overall picture is summarized in the sentence which occurs in various forms four times at the end of the book. ‘In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes’, 17. 6; of. 18. 1; 19. 1; 21. 25.
The delightful book of Ruth is a refreshing episode set in this sad period. It ends with a genealogy introducing David, the coming king. He is in the direct Messianic line. God is seen working behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes of grace. It is often so in world history. Also, in the very darkest days, God raises up the man, Samuel, who was David’s forerunner. The first few chapters of 1 Samuel describe the evil behaviour of the priesthood, the capture of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines and the end of the tabernacle worship. Against that background the hand of God is seen in the birth of Samuel and his subsequent career. He was God’s ‘emergency man’ (W. W. Fereday). His life is a shining light in the darkness. When Israel was being attacked by the Philistines, and they appealed to him for help, he said, ‘Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord’. And Samuel offered a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the Lord. The description ‘A sucking lamb’ is unique among the range of Levitically acceptable offerings. In Leviticus 22. 26-27 we read ‘And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is brought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam; and from the eighth day and thenceforth it shall be accepted for an offering made by fire unto the Lord’. The sucking lamb must have been at least eight days old. (The usual word for ‘lamb’ in the New Testament is amnos but in the book of Revelation 28 times it is ar-nion, a little lamb, referring to the Lord Jesus.) Then ‘Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him … Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us’, 1 Sam. 7. 9, 12.
His lifetime saw the change in the government of Israel from a theocracy to a monarchy. The first choice of a king was not a success. Samuel had reservations about the change of the rule of God to that of a king and warned the people in no uncertain terms. But they demanded a king ‘that we also may be like all the nations’, and God in His permissive will granted their request. Saul was a choice young man and handsome; there was not among the children of Israel, a more handsome person than he; from his shoulders and upward he was taller than all the people. He was the first king, but when the final test came he was a complete failure. His sin was halfway obedience to God’s command. His rejection by God and removal made way for God’s man, David. He was the man chosen by God, destined to found a royal dynasty that was to last until the end of time, and forever, 2 Sam. 7. 13, 16. He was the man after God’s own heart. There would be failure, but the covenant made with him and his posterity for a throne and a kingdom would be established. He was a shepherd-king, Ps. 78. 70-72. When Samuel anointed Saul, he used a vial of oil, but when he anointed David, he used a full horn of oil, the product of sacrifice.
David’s Burden and its Fulfillment
Psalm 132 describes an early experience in David’s life. At his home in Bethlehem he had heard of the capture of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines, and of its present location in the home of Abinadab at Kirjath-Jearim (The Field of the Wood, Ps. 132. 6; 1 Sam. 7. 1-2). He determined that he would not build his own house until he had a suitable resting place for the ark as the symbol of God’s presence among His gathered people. After he was crowned king and installed in the capital at Jerusalem, this was his first priority. The thrilling story of how his youthful vow was fulfilled is told in 2 Samuel 6. 12-19. A number of Psalms seem to be associated with this joyful and important event, e.g. Pss. 24; 68; 78; 132. It is also a most important landmark in the history of the worship of Jehovah by the nation of Israel. Speaking of their spiritual condition the Psalmist wrote: For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy’s hand … He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance’, Ps. 78. 58-61; 70-71.
Having ‘found’ the ark, David being divinely«directed, does not return it to the forsaken tabernacle at Shiloh, but eventually brings it to God’s new centre, 2 Sam. 6. 17; 2 Chron. 1, 4, for Jehovah’s dwelling place was now Zion, Ps. 76. 2; 132. 13. When David brought the ark to Jerusalem and placed it in a tent which he had pitched for it, a unique period of worship was initiated. This lasted for 30 years until the temple was built in the reign of Solomon. The scene is described in 1 Chronicles 15. 25 to 16. 3 R.v. ‘So David and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Obed-edom with joy: and it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they sacrificed seven bullocks and seven rams. And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites that bare the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers: and David had upon him an ephod of linen … And they brought in the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it: and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. And when David had made an end of offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. And he dealt to every one of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a cake of raisins. And he appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, and to celebrate, and to thank and praise the Lord, the God of Israel.’
In this unique period of transition David the king is seen dressed in a priestly ephod and offering sacrifices of burnt and peace offerings. A new order of service is instituted in which the Levites are appointed to a praise ministry before the ark, 1 Chron. 16. 4. The sacrifices here are for thanksgiving, not like the sin offering in the now abandoned tabernacle where the blood was formerly sprinkled on the golden lid of the ark, on the Day of Atonement. David’s tent was a temporary arrangement which awaited the building of God’s house, the temple.
David’s greatest ambition was to build a house for the Lord, 2 Sam. 7; Ps. 132. At first he was encouraged by his friend Nathan the prophet to proceed with the project. But then God intervened. David had been a man of war and had shed blood, 1 Chron. 28. 3. He could not build the house. But his son Solomon, a man of peace, would have that honour. After the sad episode of the numbering of the people and the subsequent plague, 2 Sam. 24, David was told by the prophet Gad, commanded by God, to erect an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite in Jerusalem. Araunah offered to give the threshing floor and the oxen and wooden instruments to David without payment, but he refused to offer to God that which cost him nothing. He paid Araunah 50 shekels of silver, built an altar and offered burnt and peace offering sacrifices, v. 24. As a result the plague was stayed and the site of the projected temple secured. We are informed in 1 Chronicles 21. 25 that David gave to Oman six hundred shekels of gold for the place. ‘A discrepancy has been imagined in these two accounts. The former records the price of the threshing floor (Heb. goreri); the latter verse the price of the place (Heb. ma-qom) or area on which afterward the temple, with its spacious courts, was built, 2 Chron. 3.1. David gave 50 shekels of silver for the goren; 600 shekels of gold for the maqom.’ (Footnote at 1 Chron. 21. 25 in Scofield Bible).
The Temple of Solomon
For many years David had been accumulating materials for the building of the temple, 1 Chron. 22. 1-4. From the list of treasure recorded in verse 14 it must have been one of the most costly and magnificent buildings that the world has ever seen. The details of its erection and dedication are related in 2 Chronicles 2-7. The layout of the building and the form of worship had been given by David under the guidance of the Spirit to Solomon, 1 Chron. 28. 11-12. At his inauguration as king, Solomon was anointed like his father with a full horn of oil, and a sacrifice of a thousand bullocks, a thousand rams and a thousand lambs with their drink offerings were offered. His first act as king was to go to Gibeon where the tabernacle and its brazen altar were located, and offer a thousand burnt offerings upon it. When the building of the temple was completed, the ark of the covenant was brought from the tent that David had pitched for it to the temple, and placed in the inner sanctuary underneath the outspread wings of the cherubim, 2 Chron. 5.5, 7-9. The staves are taken out, v. 9, its travelling days were done. The only things in the ark were the two tables of stone of the Law which Moses put in it at Horeb. At this ceremony of bringing up the ark, king Solomon and all the congregation of Israel sacrificed sheep and oxen which could not be counted or numbered for multitude, v. 6. At the dedication ceremony of the temple Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. Standing on a huge platform of bronze he gave his dedicatory sermon, then getting down on his knees and lifting up his hands he prayed. As he finished his prayer, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifice and the glory ‘filled the house’, 2 Chron. 7.1.
Like his father David, Solomon reigned for 40 years. In contrast to his father’s kingdom which had been characterized by war, it was a time of peace. The records describe three distinct periods of his reign:
His early life of humility and prayer for wisdom. This was graciously granted and in addition he was promised riches and honour, 1 Kgs. 3. 5-14. As a result he went to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord and offered up burnt and peace offerings, v. 15.
The period of his glory and fame when he built the temple and extended his kingdom. It was the peak of his career and saw the sacrificial system and worship established in the divinely appointed place. The yearly feasts of the Passover and Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and Tabernacles were revived and observed. The priesthood and Levites and their functions were reorganized. Altogether it was a high point in the history of the people of Israel.
The period of decline and apostacy. The sad story is told in I Kings 11.1-8, but is omitted in the book of 2 Chronicles. It is a terrible picture. Luxury and foreign pagan women were the means of Solomon’s downfall. Forced labour and high taxation were necessary to maintain his opulent lifestyle. Thus the seeds of disintegration and division were sown which bore fruit under his son Rehoboam and his industrious servant Jeroboam. It is another case of a man who began well and had a glorious middle life but whose last days were stained by the lusts of the flesh and compromise with idolatry. The dividing of the nation into the two factions oflsrael and Judah which took place under Rehobam has never been healed. That healing awaits the advent of David’s greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Isa. 11. 13.