They’re back to back, certainly it’s no accident. You can’t help but think the contrasting facts are intentionally juxtaposed against one another so that we’ll pick up on something that’s being laid down. The what is easy? It’s the why that’s up for debate. But maybe the real benefit lies somewhere in the how.
In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid, in the month of Ziv. And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it.
Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished his entire house.
(1Kings 6:37-7:1 ESV)
Seven years. Thirteen years. Solomon took seven years to build the house of the LORD. He then took thirteen years to build his own house. Those, as Joe Friday might say, “Are the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” (Baby boomer reference). That’s the what. That’s a detail preserved in the Holy Scriptures, breathed out by God, for us to observe. The question then is, “Why?”
True confession time . . . Immediately, I think the worst. I go to the place of Solomon’s known “darker side.” His well documented Ecclesiastes side, the “I tried everything to bring lasting happiness but it was all vanity under the sun” side. Solomon spent almost twice the time building something for his own pleasure as he did building something for God’s glory. Having first set up God in His holy dwelling place, Solomon then gets distracted in trying to satisfy himself through his own over the top dwelling place. Having fulfilled his obligation to do as his father, David, had desired to do, he then descends into being consumed with lavishing upon himself what he desires to do. You get the idea. You can hear the “tsk, tsk” in my voice. You can see me shaking my head. But know also, I am looking in the mirror of Solomon’s actions and hearing, “Beware” in my own life. So is that the why?
Or, as some might suggest, is it far more pragmatic than sinister? Did the building of the temple only take seven years because of the years and year of preparation that been done before ground was broken? We know that it had been on David’s radar since ascending the throne and that throughout his reign he accumulated materials for the temple. Or maybe, it only took seven years because of the sense of urgency that Solomon had in providing a place of worship to benefit all people over providing a palace for himself to live in. Or maybe it’s because, having given to the LORD the first fruits of his time, treasures, and talents in order to build a house fit for the King, he was a little exhausted and, with what was left, had less oomph for the task of making himself a house fit for a mere king. Maybe that’s why?
So, it seems to me, the why is up for debate. Either scenario, I think, is a possibility. And, just as likely, there may be other reasons why God determined to not only record these facts but to preserve them side by side.
And that has me thinking about how I process this morning’s observation. Don’t think it’s about having to choose Option A or Option B, but about chewing on both.
Reminded that some of the why’s in Scripture are not clearly spelled out. So there’s room for debate, space for speculation. And in such cases, it calls for humility. An open-handed, God-knows-and-I-don’t sort of attitude. While we are to search diligently the Scriptures for understanding, “it is the glory of God to conceal things” (Prov. 25:2).
So, I sit back content with the lack of resolution. But it’s not that I’m devoid of any application.
First, beware a judging heart, Pete. You’re initial discernment about Solomon’s motives has evidence in Scripture, but at the end of the day it is Solomon’s heart, and only God sees it. Second, beware an attitude that says once I given something to God the rest of what’s mine is for me — it’s all the Lord’s, everything we do is to be done for His glory. Third, be quick to attend to matters of worship with urgency and a desire to bring your best — tending your own house can wait when it’s deferred for faithfully tending to God’s house, first.
Seven years vs. thirteen years. That’s the what. I don’t know why. But maybe I’ve learned something this morning through the how.
That too, by God’s grace. That too, for God’s glory.