Researched and studied by HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
1 Kings 7:1-12.
The Word of God being inwardly Divine and spiritual, every particular it contains is pregnant with purely religious instruction. The subjects of its historical records pass away—the shadowy dispensation itself, to which a great part of it relates, ceases to have a visible existence, but there arises out of the dead form of the literal history a living and eternal principle that points the way to heaven, whence the spirit descended that clothed itself with those transitory forms of material existence which are now only to be found, and will abide forever with us, in the written Word. The temple of Solomon with all its magnificence has long since passed entirely away, the palaces which emulated the temple in grandeur have long ceased to exist; but they will continue to teach lessons of spiritual wisdom to the spiritually minded in all future ages of the world, as they will do forever in the kingdom of heaven. In the glorious Temple of the Lord’s Body the members of the Church militant and of the Church triumphant will see the grand antitype of the temple of Solomon, and will be able to trace the spiritual analogy through all the descending degrees of finite existence in its sanctified condition; for the Lord is the origin of all holiness, and His saving work on earth is the ground of all sanctification. “For their sakes, I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” And what and where is the truth that sanctifies? Our Lord answers this question in the conclusion of His important declaration: “Your Word is the truth.” This very Word, then, in which we find the history of a kingdom that has long since passed away, of a Church long since perished, is that in which we are to find the truth that alone can make us free.
Our reflections on the building of the temple of Solomon have led us to see by what means and in what way the Divine Being builds up His willing and obedient children into temples of His presence. The houses or palaces which the king built as his own habitations will lead us to reflect on a kindred subject. There is indeed an important distinction between them. The temple was built by Solomon as a house for God to dwell in, and where He might be worshipped; the palaces were built as habitations for himself and his wives. But as Solomon represented the Lord Jesus Christ as God in His Humanity, both the temple and the palaces must have relation to the same Divine Person. The temple represented the Lord in His priestly character, and the palaces represented the Lord in His kingly character. This is viewing the subject in its highest sense, in application to the Lord Himself. In its lower sense, it refers to the regenerate man, who is the Lord’s image; and in this sense, it may be more profitable to consider it.
As the temple consisted of three great divisions, Solomon built three palaces. Between these, there is an analogy. Both represent in their spiritual sense the regenerated human mind, as the dwelling-place of the love and truth of God; but they do not represent the subject under the same aspect, nor precisely as to the same distinctions. We have seen that the temple as consisting of three different parts represented the trine in the Lord, the three heavens, and the three degrees answering to them in the human mind, and also and eminently the three senses in the Word; in all of them termed celestial, spiritual, and natural. The three houses which Solomon built represent the mind under a different division of its faculties and the principles of which they are receptive: they represent the mind as consisting of the faculties of perception, of reason, and of science; or to express the same idea otherwise, they represent the mind as it consists of a spiritual, a rational, and a scientific faculty. The highest of these representatives is more intimately connected with that of the temple itself, and may be considered as involving the general signification of that holy edifice.
We proceed then to consider the description of these houses which Solomon built, with the view of tracing in that description the nature and spiritual formation of the faculties and principles of which they are the sacred symbols.
Solomon built his own house, the house of the forest of Lebanon, and the house for Pharaoh’s daughter. Of the first house no description is given; we are simply informed that it was his own, or more especially for himself. And this mode of expression has no doubt been adopted in order that this house might represent the spiritual faculty itself—that faculty by which the mind has a perception of spiritual things, of the spiritual principles of goodness and truth; for Solomon represented these principles, he, more than any other king, representing the principles of the good and the true in a state of harmony and oneness.
The house of the forest of Lebanon bespeaks, by its origin, the nature of the faculty and the principle which it represents. As all places in the Holy Land were representative of faculties and states of the human mind, Lebanon represents the rational faculty. The trees of its forest were symbolical of the rational perceptions of truth and goodness, and the wood of the cedar-tree symbolized the good which is acquired by those perceptions. In harmony with this symbolical meaning of the cedar, we find that in the temple itself the cedar held a middle and appropriate place. The temple, built of stone, was lined with cedar-wood, which was overlaid with gold. The stone was outermost, the gold was innermost, and the cedar was between. For the temple itself, while, in its three divisions, it represented the three degrees of life in the Creator, and thence in all created beings—the celestial, spiritual, and natural—in its materials and structure, under a different threefold division, in its very walls consisting of stone, cedar-wood, and gold, it comprehended in itself that which the palaces of Solomon represented in a more outward and visible manner.
Besides the house of the forest of Lebanon, Solomon built a house for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had taken to wife. In the third chapter, we read that Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem roundabout. The representative character of Egypt, which occupies so conspicuous a place both in the historical and prophetical parts of the Word, shows us at once what the palace built for Pharaoh’s daughter spiritually represented. For Egypt, wherever it is mentioned in Scripture, stands as a symbol of that faculty of the mind which may be called scientific, and which is aptly represented by Egypt, the grand refuge of primeval science—the science of spiritual things, the accumulated perfections of which existed in the science of correspondence, and the remains of which we see in the “wisdom “and the symbol-writing of the ancient Egyptians. It was on account of this representative character of Egypt that Abraham, the father of the faithful, visited Egypt and that the whole house of Jacob sojourned there, and it was for the same reason that our Lord Himself was carried down thither when an infant. In all these instances instruction and initiation into the science or knowledge of Divine and spiritual things were represented. The repetition of this sojourning points out the importance of the work or state which it represented. For science or knowledge forms the very foundation of the Church in the human mind. Nothing is effected in a state of ignorance; and all the Divine arrangements, both in nature and in revelation, have no other end than the instruction of the human mind, with a view to its regeneration. The human being is brought into the world only that he may be prepared for another. This is the sole end of his temporal existence; and all that exists around him, in the heavens, in the earth, and that is revealed to him in the written Word, is nothing but a means to this end. The human soul is brought into existence in a body endowed with senses, which are designed for nothing but to serve as avenues of knowledge, with its attendant delights, to the spiritual and immortal inhabitant within. Natural knowledge is the necessary precursor of spiritual truth. Nature is the gateway to revelation. And how beautiful is this seen to be provided for in the arrangements of infinite wisdom, when we know that nature and revelation, and that earth and heaven, are linked together by mutual correspondence. Heaven and earth are but the spiritual and material forms because the out births, of the same Divine Word—that Word which was in the beginning, by or through which all things were made, and without which there was not anything made that was made. That Word of infinite wisdom that created them put forth, and as far as possible embodied, its own sublime perfections in them; and when that Word came forth as a Divine revelation, it only expressed, in higher and more direct language, what nature itself declares when rightly interpreted. Not that nature can disclose the mysteries of life or immortality, or even reveal the existence of a Creator; but when these truths have been made known by Revelation, then does creation raise her voice in confirmation and illustration of the truth revealed. And it is in the knowledge of nature that the knowledge of revelation has its beginning and foundation. For this reason, the nature of our being, and the requirements of our life necessitate the precedence of the scientific element in the progress of human life. And when we speak of science we include all knowledge, even that which an infant learns on its mother’s breast. But the science which forms the actual foundation of the spiritual life is the science of spiritual things, and it is this which is more especially understood by Egypt.
In order, then, to acquire this knowledge, which is introductory to spiritual life, and which forms the foundation on which religious truth rests, it is necessary to be inspired by the love of knowledge. The love of knowledge, or the affection of science, was represented by Pharaoh’s daughter whom Solomon took as a wife. The daughter of the Egyptian king was, so far as we read, the first of Solomon’s wives, because she represented the first of the affections under the influence of which the mind is led to cultivating the means of spiritual and eternal life. The important part which this affection performs in building up the mind for heaven, by forming it into an image of heaven, is strikingly taught in a representative way in the history of Abraham. When Sarah was barren, she gave to Abraham Hagar her Egyptian handmaid, that she might have children by her; but after the birth of Ishmael, Sarah had a son of her own. In this way was it represented that the higher attainments of the spiritual life cannot be made but by means of the lower. This incident in the history of Abraham represents a truth similar to that symbolized in the history of Solomon. For in the history of Abraham, the Egyptian handmaid represented the affection of science, and Ishmael the first rational principle, which is natural; while Sarah represents the affection of truth, and Isaac that rational principle which becomes the means of acquiring that which is truly spiritual.
There is thus similarity in this respect between the history of Abraham and that of Solomon. But Scripture never repeats itself, although there are many resemblances, so many as to form a ground for the negative argument that one sacred writer borrows his ideas from another. In the history of Abraham, the birth of the principles themselves is treated of; Solomon is represented as providing habitations for them; the building of his three palaces symbolizing the confirming and fixing in the mind by ultimate in the life, the principles previously acquired. Principles are first acquired in the internal man and are then ultimate and confirmed in the external.
The end of all true life is the building up of the mind into the form of heaven, which is the throne of God, and we may learn from this part of the sacred history how this is advanced and finally attained. There are three great stages in all intellectual advancement in spiritual life. We must know, understand, and see the truth. The affection of knowing lies at the foundation of all true progress. We can only understand what we know, we can only perceive what we understand. The perception of truth is wisdom. But there is no wisdom which is not founded on knowledge and built up by reason. The love of knowledge, looking forward to the end of knowledge, which is wisdom, is the incipient love of wisdom, or the love of growing wise; and this love lies at the very basis of all spiritual advancement.
Everyone is born with the faculties of knowing, understanding, and perceiving the truth of heaven; but these faculties have to be developed or built up by the orderly exercise of the powers inherited and the right and the faithful use of the means provided. The worldly and theological maxims of the dark ages—that ignorance is the mother of devotion, and that the understanding is to be kept under obedience to faith—are not less inconsistent with the nature of religion than of the human mind. Both live and grow and strengthen in the light and sunshine of the eternal truth. Any fears or maxims to the contrary must arise from the prevalence of darkness, which dreads the scrutiny that it deprecates. In these days when the light of the moon has become as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun has become sevenfold as the light of seven days, there is no cause to dread the legitimate exercise of any of the mental faculties, but the greatest reason to invite and encourage the exercise of them all. When the Lamb had taken the book out of the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, as He opened the seven seals with which it had been closed for long centuries, each of the four beasts said,” Come and see.” The Word of life is now indeed unsealed. Its internal sense is now laid open. The mystic horses have come forth; and these symbols of the understanding of the sacred oracles have been sent forth by Him who is the Word of God itself, and who, as the Word, has come to restore the great charter of man’s spiritual liberty; and those who are disposed to behold the truth as now made known are Invited to come and see. If the sight which is now opened to us by the unfolding of the Divine Word be followed by religious practice, our minds will be formed into the image of heaven. That heavenly form which religion impresses on the mind comprehends in itself every particular form of beauty and use. But the particulars which are contained in the account of the palaces of Solomon, especially that of the forest of Lebanon, which is more fully described, will be explained in a future chapter. Here we have only attempted a general exposition.
In this chapter, we have proceeded on the understanding that the three houses, the king’s own house, the house of the forest of Lebanon, and the house for Pharaoh’s daughter, were regal palaces, distinct from the temple, the house of the Lord. In this, we seem to differ from a high authority. In the “Apocalypse Explained,” (AE 654), we read that “whereas every man has a spiritual, a rational, and a natural mind, therefore Solomon built three houses, the house of God, or the temple, for the spiritual mind, the house of the forest of Lebanon for the rational, and the house for the daughter of Pharaoh for the natural.” The author here speaks of the temple as one of the three houses that Solomon built, the other two being the house of the forest of Lebanon and the house for Pharaoh’s daughter. To make the temple one of the three houses, we must understand the king’s own house (1 Kings 7:1) to mean the temple. But the king’s house is evidently distinguished from the temple, not only by its being called Solomon’s own house but by the greater length of time, it was in the building. The temple was built in seven years (1 Kings 6:38), but the building of Solomon’s house occupied thirteen years (1Kings 7), and we find these two periods afterwards combined: “It came to pass at the end of twenty years, when Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the Lord, and the king’s house,” etc. (1 Kings 9:10.)