Avraham ben Yaakov
II CHRONICLES CHAPTER 4
Following the description of the Temple building in the previous chapter, our text continues with an account of the Temple vessels made by Solomon.
V 1: "And he made an altar of bronze." Metzudas David (ad loc.) explains that the altar that Solomon made was actually of stone (as prescribed in Exodus 20:22) but it is described as being of bronze because it came to replace the portable bronze altar that had been made by Moses in the wilderness (Exodus 27:1-8).
"And he made a molten sea." (v 2). Verses 3-5 describe the great molten bronze pool made by Solomon, while verse 6 explains that its purpose was to serve as a purificatory ablution mikveh for the Cohanim before commencing their daily service in the Temple .
On the basis of a careful analysis of the specifications of this pool as given here and in the parallel text in I Kings 7:23-26, the rabbis in Talmud Eiruvin 14b deduced mathematically that in order to contain the measure of 2000 bats of water (as given in I Kings 7:26), the upper two cubits of Solomon's Sea must have been round, as stated explicitly in our text, while the lower three cubits must have been square (see Rashi on our text v 3). In contrast to the text in I Kings, our present text gives the cubic capacity as having been 3000 bats. The rabbis explained that if a pool of the dimensions given in our text were filled with DRY material that could be HEAPED UP, it would indeed contain 3000 bats, while the actual cubic capacity for LIQUID is as given in the text in I Kings. Each bat measure is the equivalent of three SE'AH's. The minimum measure of water for a valid Mikveh is 40 se'ahs. Thus Solomon's Sea contained sufficient water for ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MIKVEHS.
Verses 3 and 4 speak about two different sets of oxen. The two rows in the "likeness of oxen" that circled it under its rim (verse 3) are the knobs (or "colocynths", a lemon-shaped fruit) described in I Kings 7:24. Our text is saying that these knobs were fashioned in the form of ox-heads. Verse four then describes the twelve oxen on which the entire Sea of Solomon stood, three in each direction of the compass. (The square formation of the oxen as described in our text supports the above-cited rabbinic teaching in Eiruvin 14b that the lower part of the pool was square.)
Solomon's "Sea" - the actual pool itself - alludes to the Sefirah of Malchus, "Kingship", for in order to enter the service of God we must first immerse ourselves entirely in the acceptance of the yoke of His kingship. The twelve oxen allude to the twelve angels upon which the Shechinah "rides" in the world above - with four camps of three angels each in each direction of the compass - and to the twelve tribes of Israel upon which she "rides" in this world - with four camps of three tribes each surrounding the Sanctuary in each direction of the compass. The twelve angels and twelve tribes correspond to the twelve permutations of the essential Name of HaShem, each of which rules through Malchus at its appointed time. The twelve oxen of Solomon's Sea correspond to the twelve words in the verses SHEMA YISRAEL HASHEM ELOKEINU HASHEM ECHAD and BARUCH SHEM KEVOD MALCHUSO LE-OLAM VA-ED. When we recite these words with the intention of taking upon ourselves the yoke of the kingship of Heaven, we bind ourselves with all the souls of Israel - the twelve tribes - and we become the chariot of the Shechinah (Zohar Vayechi 241a; Likutey Moharan I, 36:3).
V 6: The ten bronze lavers made by Solomon were in addition to the original bronze laver of Moses (Exodus 30:18), which was now placed in the Temple with five of Solomon's lavers flanking it on each side.
Vv 7-10: In accordance with the same principle as in the case of the lavers, Solomon made ten MENORAHS (candelabra) and ten SHOW-BREAD TABLES to stand flanking Moses' Menorah and Show-Bread Tables respectively. Moses' Menorah stood on the south side of the Sanctuary with Solomon's Menorahs flanking it to its south ("right") and north ("left"), while Moses' Show-Bread Table stood on the north side of the Sanctuary with Solomon's tables to its north and south (Shekalim 17b). There is a division of opinion in the Talmud (Menachos 98b) as to whether all of the Menorahs were lit daily or only that of Moses and whether bread was placed on all the tables or only on that of Moses (see RaDaK on II Chron. 4:6). In the case of the Menorahs, our text says that he made them "according to their prescribed form" (KE-MISHPATAM). This indicates that Solomon did not make these additional Menorahs and Tables on his own initiative but on the basis of instructions he received from King David founded on prophecy and midrashim on Biblical verses (see Rashi on II Chron. 4:7 and RaDaK on II Kings 8:6).
Following the account of the sacrificial vessels made for Solomon by Hiram (verse 11) the text in vv 12-18 gives a summary of all the bronze vessels that he made, as described in detail in the previous chapter and the earlier part of the present chapter.
V 17: "The king cast them in the plain of the Jordan . between Succoth and Tzereidah." Rashi points out that Tzereidah was the hometown of Jeraboam, who in the reign of Solomon's son and successor, Rehaboam, led the rebellion of the Ten Tribes against the authority of the House of David and prevented them from going up to the Temple in Jerusalem. Rashi brings a midrash of his uncle that TZEREIDATHA as found in our text indicates that Jeraboam CONSTRICTED (TZAR) the LAW of the Torah (DATH).
Vv 19-22 give a summary of the Temple vessels that were made of gold. The "perfect gold" mentioned at the end of verse 21 was said by the rabbis to have been the product of casting one thousand talents of gold into the crucible and successively refining them until only a single talent of purest gold remained (Shekalim 18a).
Verse 1: "And Solomon brought in all the things that David his father had dedicated." Rashi (ad loc.) explains that on the level of PSHAT the verse suggests that Solomon brought into the Temple whatever was left of his father's dedications after using the rest for the work. Rashi also brings a midrash of the sages that Solomon brought into the Temple treasury EVERYTHING that David had dedicated from the treasures plundered from the nations he defeated because Solomon did not want to use them in the Temple building. This was because he knew prophetically that it was destined to be destroyed, and he did not want the idolaters to be able to say that this came about through the vengeance of their gods after the plunder from their temples was used for the Temple in Jerusalem .
Vv 2ff describe the great assembly called by Solomon in the eleventh year of his reign at the conclusion of seven years building the Temple in order to bring in all the vessels to their proper places and inaugurate the Temple service.
The account in our text of how the Levites brought the Ark of the Covenant to its place in the Holy of Holies (vv 5ff) supplies the outer facts but does not give any indication of the great drama that took place when Solomon tried to get the Ark through the entrance of the Holy of Holies, only to find that "the gates were firmly stuck together and could not be opened. Solomon recited twenty-four prayers but he was not answered. He started saying, 'Lift up your heads, O gates.and let the King of Glory enter' (Psalms 24:7) but the gates ran after him to swallow him up. Even when he concluded, 'HaShem of Hosts, He is the King of glory, Selah!' he was still not answered. At last he said, 'O God, do not turn away the face of Your anointed one, remember the kindnesses of David Your servant' (II Chron. 6:42; cf. Psalms 132:10). Only then was he answered - and all the faces of David's enemies turned black as the bottom of a pot because the entire people and all Israel knew that the Holy One blessed be He had forgiven him for that sin [with Bathsheva]" (Talmud Shabbos 30a).
Verse 9: "And they drew out the poles of the Ark so that the ends of the poles were visible from the Ark before the Sanctuary but they were not seen outside." The commentators provide a variety of explanations of this verse. The most plausible seems to be that of RaDaK (ad loc.): that the poles on which the Ark used to be carried were now drawn forward towards the eastern partition of the Holy of Holies to indicate that the Ark was now positioned in its permanent resting place and no longer needed to be carried from place to place as in the days before the Temple was built. However the poles could not simply be removed, because they were needed to guide the High Priest on Yom Kippur when he had to burn incense and sprinkle the sacrificial blood in front of the Ark and not on either side. According to the Talmudic sages (Yoma 53b) the poles extended to the PAROCHET (screen) dividing the Holy of Holies from the main Sanctuary, protruding just a little so that while the poles themselves could not be seen in the Sanctuary, two protrusions were visible on the Parochet like two nipples, in order to fulfill the verse, '.He dwells between my breasts' (Song of Songs 1:13).
V 14: "And the priests were unable to stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of HaShem filled the House of God." With all the vessels in their proper places, the Divine Presence came to dwell in the House and the Temple was complete.
May it be rebuilt quickly in our days! Amen!
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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