Researched and studied by HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
The Vessels of Solomon’s Temple,
made by Hiram.
1 Kings 7:13-51.
In our reflections on the temple of Solomon, we have endeavoured to trace the spiritual analogy of that gorgeous edifice with the Temple of the Lord’s Body, the Divine Word, heaven, the church, and the regenerate mind. The Temple of the Lord’s glorified Humanity is the Divine pattern and the infinite origin of all that is truly human in heaven and on earth; and in the chain of dependence from Him, who sustains both the spiritual and the material universe, we are enabled to see His image in all that is in the order of His creative wisdom and saving providence. In tracing the analogy of the temple with the Lord Himself, we fix our mind for the time upon the highest truth which it represents, and which, being the highest, enters into all the others.
There is one part of the temple of Solomon which, to be seen in its full import in relation to us, must first be viewed in its typical relation to the Lord. Solomon cast two pillars of brass, eighteen cubits high apiece, with chapiters five cubits high, and nets of checkerwork; and he set them in the porch of the temple, and He called the one Jachin, and the other Boaz.
These two pillars seem to have been an addition to the temple, considered as a more permanent form of the tabernacle; and it has been conjectured that they were intended to represent the pillar of the cloud and the pillar of fire, which may be considered as the pillars of the tabernacle, while the children of Israel journeyed with it through the wilderness. This is not grounded in any law or perception of spiritual analogy, but only in the perception of outward or nominal similitude. Still, it may be admitted that the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day had a similar representative character to the two great pillars that adorned the entrance of Solomon’s temple. The pillars of the temple were natural, the pillar of fire and pillar of cloud were supernatural; and the fiery and cloudy pillar which, like the food of Israel in the desert, was given from heaven, represented the same protective, guiding, and sustaining power as the people enjoyed in a more fixed and material form, when they had entered and become established in their promised inheritance.
The temple of Solomon representing the Divine Humanity of the Lord, the two pillars of brass that stood in the porch represented the Divine natural principle of humanity. We are instructed in the Writings of the New Church respecting this heavenly mystery, that in the Lord from eternity there were the Divine celestial and the Divine spiritual actually, and there was also the Divine natural potentially. And it was to put on the Divine Nature actually that the Lord came into the world, and was born of a human mother. Before the Incarnation, the Lord was indeed human, but He was human in the degrees that angels are human, who, as departed men, have left their natural bodies in the natural world. By incarnation, the Lord became a man in the degree that we are men, who, while we possess the higher degrees of human nature in common with angels, have that degree which they have forever laid aside. Our consciousness is in the natural world, theirs is in the spiritual; and it was to bring Himself, with His regenerating love and truth, down to the sphere of our consciousness, and make Himself an object of our natural apprehension and reception that the Lord became a man like ourselves; and through the humanity which He assumed and glorified on earth, He is with us always even to the end of the world.
It is needful to direct our minds thus far to this profound but important subject, for the purpose of showing how this great truth enters into the representatives of the Israelitish Church and is presented symbolically in the Divine Word. For the truth represented by the two brazen pillars of Solomon’s temple was presented in vision to the seers of the Old and New Testament.
In Ezekiel 1, the Lord’s providence is described by the cherubim, who are said to have the likeness of a man, and their feet were straight feet: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. In Daniel 10, Jehovah Himself is described as a man, whose body was like the beryl, and His face as the appearance of lightning, and His eyes as lamps of fire, and His arms and His feet like in colour to polished brass. But in Revelation 1, this representation is brought out still more clearly and fully. There, John, in the Spirit, sees Jesus as the Divine Man, “clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle: His head and His hairs white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes as a flame of fire; and His feet like fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace.”
In all these instances the Divine natural principle of the Lord is described or represented. That principle is specially signified by His feet; and these are said to have the appearance of brass, because brass is the symbol of natural good, or good in the natural degree; and this brass is said to have a burning and burnished appearance, its burning appearance indicating that that good in the Lord was filled with the ardency of the Divine Love, and its brightness indicating that it was filled with the light of the Divine wisdom.
The representative meaning of the two pillars of Solomon’s temple is further indicated by their names. The right pillar was called Jachin, and the left was called Boaz. The one name expresses stability and the other strength. And these names express precisely what was accomplished by the Lord’s assuming and glorifying the natural degree of humanity. Stability and power are in ultimates; and the Lord’s becoming man in ultimates, as He had from eternity been in first principles, brought down His power to the uttermost of human need, and provided for the stability of all things, spiritual and material. To the first of these, our Lord referred when He said, “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth.” To the second He alluded when He said to Peter, who had confessed Him to be the Son of God: “On this rock, I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The glory of Christianity and the hopes of the world rest on the grand truth that the Son of Man has all power—that the Divine power is brought down to the lowest affections and perceptions of the human mind, not merely through heaven, or by the agency of angelic ministration, but immediately through the Humanity of the Lord—the veritable Son of Man. The love and truth of God thus ultimately are the very pillars of heaven and the church, and consequently of the universe itself; for, as we are again instructed unless the Lord had come into the world no flesh could have been saved, nor could heaven have remained in a state of integrity. The Lord’s coming prevented universal ruin; and the pillars of the temple— the temple of His humanity, of heaven, and the Church—which was then set up, will remain in their strength and stability forever.
But not only the names but the place of the pillars of Solomon’s temple indicate their meaning. The pillars were set up in the porch, through which there was an entrance into the temple. And in harmony with this situation of the pillars the Lord says of Himself, “I am the door of the sheep: by Me, if any man enters in, he shall go in and out, and find pasture.” The Divine Nature of the Lord is the door: ” No man comes to the Father, but by Me.” There is no means of entrance into the church or into heaven but by the Humanity of the Lord, therefore except by the acknowledgement of Jesus as the God of heaven and earth, the Saviour of mankind. Not that He excludes those who either do not know or worship Him by name; but without that state from which acknowledgement springs there can be no admission. Children, who know little or nothing of the Saviour, are yet justly regarded as within the pale of the Church, and those who die in childhood are admitted into heaven; yet they do not actually form a part of the Church of heaven, until they have entered by the knowledge and practical acknowledgement of their Lord and Saviour. Acknowledgement of heart constitutes that state which is essential to the •existence and stability of heaven and the Church.
Besides the brazen pillars of the temple, there are some other important parts of the sacred edifice, or things connected with it, which demand our attention. Among these was the brazen sea, which stood upon twelve oxen. In this sea, the priests were required to wash before they entered into the temple or made offerings to Jehovah upon the altar. In this vessel for purification, considered in relation to the Lord, we see a representation of Himself as the truth which purifies from sin, a type[of that of which Zechariah speaks: “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness “(Zechariarch13:1). The brazen sea was a symbol of the Divine natural principle of the Lord as to the truth, by which there is purification from spiritual uncleanness. It is called a sea, because a sea signifies Divine truth in its fullness, and therefore in its power. This sea was contained in a brazen vessel, to represent truth grounded in goodness; and the vessel contained two thousand baths, to indicate that purification has for its end the renewal of man both as to his intellectual and voluntary life. The sea stood upon twelve oxen, to signify that Divine truth in the natural mind must rest upon and be supported by all the good natural affections, which are symbolized by oxen.
Besides the molten sea, there were ten lavers on ten bases, and each of these contained forty baths. These lavers, like the sea, represented the receptacles of truth in the natural mind, but they represented receptacles of a lower order, or of a more external kind. There are in the mind various receptacles of truth, or what is the same, truth is differently perceived in the different degrees of the mind—for example, in the sensuous and the rational. The sensuous is the lowest degree of the natural mind, and the rational is the highest. Both the molten sea and the lavers of brass denote receptacles of truth in the natural mind, and indeed the sensuous degree of that mind; but the ten lavers represented the very lowest receptacles, such as they are in the senses themselves. Thus the water in these lavers denotes truth as it comes down to the very lowest degree of sensual apprehension. And what is the meaning of this typical arrangement for washing those who entered into the temple? It means that no thoughts and feelings ought to be admitted into the mind from the world without, no desires should be allowed to pass from the flesh into the spirit, without being purified by Divine truth, so that their natural or hereditary defilements may be removed. Worldly and sensual things are continually flowing into our minds, for we are surrounded by them; and to represent this, the twelve oxen were placed under the sea looking to the four cardinal points.
The means of such purification, as represented by the sea and the lavers of the temple, are provided in their greatest possible fullness in the Christian Church, because the Lord has Himself become the Laver of regeneration. But they do not so exist to us in a practical way until our own minds have become receptacles of heavenly truth, and until that truth has been employed for the purification of the desires and affections of our minds, even the most external. Therefore the brazen sea, in reference to us, represents the natural mind itself, as the recipient of truth, and the truth of which it is receptive. And the molten sea, for containing the water, was made of brass, to teach us that good is the receptacle of truth. Brass is the symbol of good, as water is of truth. The good signified by brass is that which is called natural good. It is not, however, that which is hereditary, or those good natural dispositions which everyone more or less inherits from his parents. These natural inclinations are not, strictly speaking, human, but are similar to those of the gentler animals, and were therefore represented by the twelve oxen that supported the brazen sea. The natural goodness represented by the brazen sea is that which has a spiritual origin, and is religious, and therefore human, goodness. This acquired goodness rests upon hereditary goodness, as the brazen sea rested upon the twelve oxen. The human being inherits evil as well as good dispositions from his parents, but the evil form no-actual basis for acquired goodness. Evil and falsehood can afford no-basis or support for goodness and truth. Hatred cannot support love, anger mercy, or envy benevolence. Not the ferocious tiger or the treacherous leopard, but the gentle ox was the chosen support for the brazen sea. And thus would the Divine Oracles teach us that not the ferocious and treacherous, but the gentle and docile, dispositions of the natural mind, are those which can supply a basis for the good which, natural in its degree, is spiritual in its origin. Spiritual dispositions are ingrafted upon those which are natural. But there must be a similarity of nature between the scion and the stock in order that the one may be grafted on the other. The cultivated may be grafted on the wild, but it must be on one of the same kind, not on one of a diverse kind. So with renewing of the life of man. The Divine Husbandman desires to renew us by imparting to us of His own nature, but He cannot ingraft a scion from the tree of life except on some corresponding stock in our own natural minds. And in this case, He ingrafts it on that which is His own; for every good natural disposition is originally from Him, and is a survival of something of that which originally belonged to man, when God beheld all that He had made, and behold it was very good. That which God the Creator originally did, God the Redeemer desires again to do. He desires to restore us to a state of holiness, that He may restore us to a state of happiness. He desires to find in us some natural goodness, that He may found upon it the brazen sea that will contain the water of purifying truth, in which we may wash and be clean, and so be fit for entering into His presence, and worship in His holy temple.
One singular circumstance connected with the building of the temple is deserving of our particular attention. “The house, when it was in the building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was in building” (1 Kings 6:7). This absence of the sound of any tool in the house, though not required by any direct command, was no doubt ordered in conformity with what had taken place in the construction of the tabernacle, and with a very strict prohibition respecting the building of the altar. The tabernacle being of wood, and intended to be set up when the congregation rested and taken down when they journeyed, it was necessary that the planks should be separated, shaped, and so formed as to be capable, without further preparation, of being united into a complete habitation. But this necessity did not naturally belong to the altar, to which the prohibition against the use of any tool was so strictly applied. It was a command to Moses, immediately connected with the giving of the law of the decalogue, “An altar of earth you shall make to Me, and shall sacrifice thereon your burnt-offerings, and your peace-offerings, your sheep, and your oxen: in all places where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you will make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone: for if you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it “(Exodus 20:24, 25). There is nothing but conjecture to guide us in an effort to discover a reason affecting the Israelites themselves in regard to this stringent law. It is supposed to have been intended to prevent them from following a practice of the heathen nations around them. But if we cannot find a sufficient reason for the law in regard to the altar, and for the observance in regard to the temple, we are supplied with a very adequate one in regard to that which the altar and the temple represented. If the letter affords little light or instruction on the subject, the spirit supplies us abundantly with both. In the Writings of the Church, it is explained clearly and practically:—
“The altar, and afterwards the temple, were in an especial manner representative of the Lord as to Divine goodness and Divine truth, wherefore the stones of which they were built signified the truths of doctrine, of religion, and of worship. That nothing of self-derived intelligence should accede to the truths of doctrine and worship derived from the Word, and consequently be in them, was represented by the stones being whole, and not hewn, of which the temple and the altar were built. For the work of the workmen and the artificer signified such intelligence. The tools also, as the hammer and the axe, and the iron in general, signified such truth in its ultimate form, and this is especially falsified by the selfhood of man, for this truth is the same as the literal sense of the Word. The truths from which the Lord is worshipped ought to be taken from the Word, for in everything of the Word there is life from the Divine Being, from whom they are. When truths are taken from the selfhood, they respect and have for their end dignity and eminence overall in the world, and also the possession of the earth and opulence above all, wherefore they have in them the love of self and of the world, thus all evils collectively; but truths from the Word respect and have for their end eternal life, and have in them love to the Lord and love to the neighbour, thus all good collectively. When truths are hatched from the selfhood or from one’s own intelligence, they domineer over the truths that are Divine in their origin, for these are applied to confirm the others, when yet the truths which are from the Divine Being ought to have the dominion, and those which are from self-intelligence ought to serve. We speak of those which are of self-intelligence as truths, but they are not truths, they only appear as truths in the external form, for they are only rendered like truths in the external form by applications from the literal sense of the Word, while in the internal form they are falsities.
” What is derived from self-intelligence in itself is void of life, nay, is spiritually dead; for the selfhood of man is nothing but evil. If therefore, Divine worship is performed from the selfhood, that worship is nothing more than as the worship of a graven or molten idol, in which there is no spirit, that is, no life. What, on the contrary, is from the Word, is serviceable for Divine worship, because in itself it is alive. For inwardly in every particular of the Word, there is a spiritual sense which treats of the Lord’s kingdom, and within that sense, there is a Divine sense, which treats of the Lord alone. From this and from no other source are the life and sanctity of the Word. The Word is as a Divine Man. The literal sense is, as it were, His body, and the spiritual sense is, as it were, His soul. Hence it is evident that the literal sense lives by the internal sense. It would appear as if the literal sense vanishes and dies by the internal sense; on the contrary, it does not vanish, still less die, but by the internal sense lives. From these considerations, it is now manifest that worship truly Divine exists from those truths which are from the Word, and in no case from those which originate in self-derived intelligence. Hence it is that the expression, ‘If you lift up your tool upon the altar you shall profane it,’ signifies that in case you devise such things as belong to Divine worship, not deriving them from the Word but from self-intelligence, there is no worship. And so of the temple, in which no sound of hammer or of an axe nor any tool of iron was heard during the time, it was in the building.”