In this chapter we have the different objects that belong to the temple:
1. The bronze altar (verse 1).
2. The cast sea (verses 2-5).
3. The ten basins (verse 6).
4. The ten lampstands (verse 7).
5. The ten tables (verse 8).
6. The court for priests (verses 9-10).
Then the work of Huram (verses 11-17) and the work of Solomon (verses 18-22) are described.
1 The Bronze Altar
1 Then he made a bronze altar, twenty cubits in length and twenty cubits in width and ten cubits in height.
All dimensions of the temple and the objects inside are larger than those of the tabernacle and the objects in it. The bronze altar in the temple has four times the length and width and three times the height of the tabernacle. In the application this suggests that in the land there is a greater appreciation of Christ – of Whom the altar speaks – than in the wilderness, where much can distract us from Him. We should bear in mind that the borders of the land are at their widest under the reign of King Solomon. This also means that the land has more inhabitants and therefore more worshipers. Therefore there is also a larger altar.
The dimensions of the altar are, in terms of its length and width, that of the holy of holies. This shows the special meaning of the altar. It brings the service at this altar into direct connection with the holy of holies, where God dwells. It is the burnt offering altar on which the daily burnt offering is brought. On the basis of the burnt offering God can dwell with His people and His people can worship Him in the sanctuary.
2 - 5 The Cast Sea
2 Also he made the cast [metal] sea, ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height [was] five cubits and its circumference thirty cubits. 3 Now figures like oxen [were] under it [and] all around it, ten cubits, entirely encircling the sea. The oxen [were] in two rows, cast in one piece. 4 It stood on twelve oxen, three facing the north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east; and the sea [was set] on top of them and all their hindquarters turned inwards. 5 It was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, [like] a lily blossom; it could hold 3 Now figures like oxen [were] under it [and] all around it, ten cubits, entirely encircling the sea. The oxen [were] in two rows, cast in one piece. 4 It stood on twelve oxen, three facing the north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east; and the sea [was set] on top of them and all their hindquarters turned inwards. 5 It was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, [like] a lily blossom; it could hold 3,000 baths.
Not only is worship (the altar) greater or wider in the temple than in the tabernacle, but cleansing is also greater. This is not, as with the tabernacle, a bronze laver, but a sea cast of bronze, with a capacity of no less than 66,000 liters, assuming that one bath is twenty-two liters. It determines us that in such an exalted service at such a large altar, the purification must also be more thorough.
No dimensions are given for the laver of the tabernacle. The size of this depends on the mirrors that the women have given (Exo 38:8). The dimensions of the sea are given. These are dimensions that indicate that the cast sea contains an enormous amount of water. The immense volume of 66,000 liters speaks of God being a God who “abundantly” pardons (Isa 55:7). It emphasizes that cleansing of the greatest sins is possible.
The unlimited grace in cleansing is also represented by the four wind directions of the four times three cattle. The number four is the number of the whole earth. Everyone can be cleansed of any sin.
The twelve oxen on which the sea stands are also compared to the twelve apostles. Oxen are, among other things, a picture of servants (cf. 1Cor 9:9-10). The twelve apostles have been instructed to preach in the name of the Lord Jesus “repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed … to all the nations”, “to the remotest part of the earth” (Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8).
In the book of Revelation the sea is crystal, because the redeemed there no longer need cleansing (Rev 4:6a). They are there in a state of perfect holiness and purity.
6 The Ten Basins
6 He also made ten basins in which to wash, and he set five on the right side and five on the left to rinse things for the burnt offering; but the sea [was] for the priests to wash in.
The ten small basins in which to wash serve to clean the materials and sacrifices. Not only the offerors, the priests, must be clean. Also everything that is used to prepare the sacrifices and the sacrifices themselves must be clean. It speaks symbolically of our appreciation of the Sacrifice, a valuation that must be in accordance with what the Word says about the Lord Jesus. Our sacrifices are only pleasing to God if we offer them up through Jesus Christ (1Pet 2:5b; Heb 13:15), that is, in the awareness that God accepts our sacrifices because they speak of Christ and He sees us in Him.
No sacrifices or sacrificial material should be washed in the great sea. The great sea is only for priests to wash themselves in. This does not mean that they went into the sea, but that they washed themselves with the water of the sea.
7 The Ten Lampstands
7 Then he made the ten golden lampstands in the way prescribed for them and he set them in the temple, five on the right side and five on the left.
Instead of the one lampstand in the tabernacle here are ten lampstands. That indicates that more light is needed in the land about heavenly things than in the wilderness. It takes more education from the Spirit to understand, for example, the letter to the Ephesians than the letter to the Corinthians.
8 Ten Tables and One Hundred Golden Bowls
8 He also made ten tables and placed them in the temple, five on the right side and five on the left. And he made one hundred golden bowls.
The “ten tables” are tables for the showbreads. It makes us aware of the fact that it is important to feed on the food of the temple. We can think of the Lord’s teaching in the temple (Lk 21:37a). That must have been food for the hearers. Such a place of education with food for the believers must today be the local church.
The “golden bowls” are sacrificial scales from which is “sprinkled”. They are also mentioned in the list of the consecrated offerings given by the princes for the tabernacle (Numbers 7). It is most likely that blood is sprinkled from these golden bowls. It speaks of the application of the blood of Jesus Christ with which we are sprinkled as believers.
Peter speaks in his letter about the being “sprinkled with His blood” (1Pet 1:2; cf. Heb 12:24b). It means the believer is brought under the power of the blood. The blood gives the perfect assurance that everything is in order for God. It places the believer in perfect purity before the face of God. Through the blood of Christ there is peace with God (Eph 2:13-14; Col 1:20).
The bread of the tables shows us Christ in His life on earth and the blood of the golden bowls reminds us of His atonement death on the cross. We need His life and His death to get life, and that is something that happens once. When we have received life, it is then necessary to live that life as well.
The Lord Jesus speaks about both these aspects in John 6. He says with regard to obtaining life: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves” (Jn 6:53). Then He points out that we need to constantly feed on His life and death. That is what he says: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (Jn 6:56).
9 - 10 The Court and the Sea
9 Then he made the court of the priests and the great court and doors for the court, and overlaid their doors with bronze. 10 He set the sea on the right side [of the house] toward the southeast.
There is a “court of the priests” and a “great court”, which shows that there is a separation between the priests and the common people (cf. Eze 10:3,5). This separation is not there for the believer of the church. The believer is now both a priest and an ordinary member of the people. That he is a priest indicates the privilege of drawing near to God with sacrifices. That he is an ordinary member of the people points to his every day life that he should live in accordance with his high calling as a child of God to be a testimony in the world. His life in the “great court” takes place in the immediate presence of God, even though his earthly obligations do not allow him to think about it in concrete terms.
The doors of the court are covered with bronze. Bronze is a picture of righteousness. The bronze doors tell us that they are doors through which only the righteous enter and exit (Psa 118:19-20). What does not belong inside, may not enter or must be removed (cf. 1Cor 5:13b).
After the description of the court and the doors, the place where the sea is placed is mentioned. We may wonder why this is only said here and not in the description of the sea in verses 2-5. It is not a mistake, for God’s Spirit doesn’t make mistakes, but has a purpose. It points out that whoever goes through the door into the court, that is whoever wants to come into the presence of God, must be cleansed.
The description of the place shows which aspects are related to the cleansing. “The right side” speaks of power. The cleansing is powerful. The goal of the cleansing we see in the “southeast”. The south speaks of beneficent warmth. That’s what cleansing does. Another consequence is connected to the east. The east speaks among other things of the future, the coming of the Lord Jesus. Cleansing also brings about a look forward to His coming, the longing for the encounter with Him in the air.
11 - 17 The Work of Huram
11 Huram also made the pails, the shovels and the bowls. So Huram finished doing the work which he performed for King Solomon in the house of God: 12 the two pillars, the bowls and the two capitals on top of the pillars, and the two networks to cover the two bowls of the capitals which were on top of the pillars, 13 and the four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, two rows of pomegranates for each network to cover the two bowls of the capitals which were on the pillars. 14 He also made the stands and he made the basins on the stands, 15 [and] the one sea with the twelve oxen under it. 16 The pails, the shovels, the forks and all its utensils, Huram-abi made of polished bronze for King Solomon for the house of the LORD. 17 On the plain of the Jordan the king cast them in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredah.
“The pails (verse 11) are cooking pots in which the sacrificial meat is cooked (cf. 1Sam 2:13-14). “The shovels” are for cleaning the altar. The remainders are thus shoveled away after the sacrifice has been burnt. We have already spoken about “the bowls” (verse 8).
Huram completes his work (verse 11b) by making the aforementioned objects. He finishes his work. It’s good to start a work, it’s also good to finish that work. Paul did this (2Tim 4:7) and we must do it, otherwise we are not good disciples of the Lord Jesus (Lk 14:27-33). The Lord Jesus says to the Father: “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (Jn 17:4).
In verses 12-16, a summary is given of what Huram made. It also mentions some objects that have not been mentioned before. The two pillars (verses 12-13) that one passes when one goes to the sanctuary are from above, in the height, covered with four hundred pomegranates. This presupposes one has to enter the sanctuary to see the rich fruit of Christ’s work in the high.
The stands for the basins and the oxen as stand for the sea (verses 14-15) make it easier to use the water. The stands lift up the water and bring it to the level of the priests. We can also apply it this way that the stands lift the basins and the sea, as it were, above the pollution of the soil. Cleansing is not of the earth, but of heaven. The Lord Jesus washed the feet of His disciples also in the upper room (Jn 13:2-10).
Of the tools used in the sacrifices (verse 16), we have already had “the pails” and “the shovels” before us (verse 11). Now “the forks” are added. “The forks” are used to remove the cooked meat from the cooking pots. The wicked priest sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, have used the forks to take the meat out of the pot for themselves (1Sam 2:13-14). As an application to us, we can ask the question how we ‘treat’ our sacrifices of praise, how we deal with them. Is it only for ourselves, for our own feeling, or is it really for the Father and the Lord Jesus?
The bronze objects are cast in the plain of the Jordan (verse 17). The Jordan is a picture of the death and resurrection of Christ and our identification with Him. This shows us the origin of the way we bring the sacrifices. It should all be in connection with the death and resurrection of Christ. We must not follow our own ideas and views in offering up sacrifices of praise.
18 - 22 The Work of Solomon
18 Thus Solomon made all these utensils in great quantities, for the weight of the bronze could not be found out. 19 Solomon also made all the things that [were] in the house of God: even the golden altar, the tables with the bread of the Presence on them, 20 the lampstands with their lamps of pure gold, to burn in front of the inner sanctuary in the way prescribed; 21 the flowers, the lamps, and the tongs of gold, of purest gold; 22 and the snuffers, the bowls, the spoons and the firepans of pure gold; and the entrance of the house, its inner doors for the holy of holies and the doors of the house, [that is], of the nave, of gold.
Solomon, as a type of Christ, is the final maker of all the bronze objects Huram made (verse 18). He uses the hands of Huram. He makes everything “in great quantities”. These are all objects that benefit the service in the temple, that is, the service to the LORD. Bronze represents the righteousness of God. The bronze objects show that everything in the temple service is focused on His honor and fits His holiness. That the weight of the bronze could not be found out means that we will not be able to understand the value of the righteousness of God which we have received in Christ (1Cor 1:30-31).
That the work is attributed to Solomon, while Huram is the actual performer, can be compared to the service of worship in the church, for example on Sunday morning. We then come together as a church to praise and honor the Lord Jesus. What we bring to Him, however, is laid in our hearts by Himself. It is He who also sing the praises in the church, which He does through the hearts and mouths of His own (Heb 2:12). Our service of worship is His work in us through His Spirit.
The work of Huram is of bronze (verse 16), that of Solomon is of gold (verses 19-20). Gold is a picture of Divine glory. What Solomon makes is in a special way a symbolic representation of the glory of the work of the Lord Jesus for God in the sanctuary. The gold objects are precious to God. They all speak of Christ.
The “golden altar” (verse 19) is the altar of fragrant incense. This represents Christ through Whom the fragrant incense of the worship we bring is pleasing to God. “The tables with the bread of the Presence on them” represent Christ Who shows His people, represented in the bread of the Presence, to God in the glory that is peculiar to Him.
“The lampstands with their lamps of pure gold” (verse 20) are also a picture of Christ Who, through the Spirit, gives light in the sanctuary over heavenly things. The things of Christ can only be seen and admired in the light of the sanctuary. The world knows and sees nothing of this.
The light “burns in front of the inner sanctuary in the way prescribed”. This indicates that the service in the sanctuary is in direct connection with the holy of holies, where God dwells. For us, by the tearing the veil of the holy of holies, the two rooms have become one room.
Also “the flowers, the lamps, and the tongs” are “of gold” (verse 21). The flowers speak of life, the lamps of light and the tongs of taking away what prevents the light shining brightly. Human light is excluded. People cannot contribute anything to a deeper understanding of Who Christ is. It is all “of purest gold”.
The objects mentioned in verse 22a, “the snuffers, the bowls, the spoons and the firepans of pure gold”, are also connected to the lampstands and their lamps. These objects are also designed and made with a view to let the light shine brightly. The number of objects made in connection with the lampstands and the material they are made of show how important God considers it to be that only His light falls in perfect brightness on heavenly things.
The doors for “the entrance of the house”, “its inner doors” (verse 22b) refer to two entrances. There are doors from the court to the house, which are the doors that give access to the holy, and there are doors that give access from the holy to the holy of holies. It is possible that before the last doors the veil is hanging, through which the doors are hidden from view.
The Lord Jesus says of Himself: “I am the door” (Jn 10:7,9). In connection with the multiple doors in the temple we can say that He is the door towards ever-higher things.