Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
II CHRONICLES CHAPTER 6
"THEN Solomon said, HaShem has said that He would dwell in the thick darkness" (v 1) - "When Solomon saw the cloud [in the last verse of the previous chapter, II Chron. 5:14] he said, Now I see that the Shechinah rests in the House that I have built, for He indeed promised to come and dwell in it from the midst of cloud and thick darkness. And where did He say so? 'For in a cloud I shall appear over the cover of the Ark '" (Leviticus 16:2; Midrash Sifri).
The text of King Solomon's prayer on the inauguration of the Temple as given in our present chapter, II Chron. 6:1-39, is almost completely identical with the text as given in I Kings 8:12-52 with minor verbal differences, except that our text here in Chronicles adds the extra detail that the king - who was aged only 23 at this time - positioned himself on a bronze laver where all Israel could see him while he kneeled and spread his hands to heaven in order to offer his prayer (verses 12-13, see Rashi on v 13).
"God has spoken once; twice I have heard this" (Psalms 62:12). It is surely significant that the lengthy text of Solomon's prayer is given twice in our Scriptures in almost identical versions, as if to emphasize the great importance of the lessons it teaches us about the true meaning of the Temple that he built, whose rebuilding we await daily. King Solomon makes no mention of the animal sacrifices that are to be brought in the Temple as ordained in Leviticus and Numbers, but only of the prayers that Israelites and gentiles alike are to direct to God through the House and of the repentance in the heart that is necessary in order to elicit God's forgiveness and favor.
Solomon begins with thanksgiving for God's fulfillment of his promise to King David to establish his son as the king who would build the Temple , because this shows His detailed providence over all the affairs of the world. Nothing is subject to fate or chance, and this is why prayer and repentance "work", because everything is in the hands of God, who is responsive to men's prayers, deeds and efforts.
Vv 22-23: "If a man sins against his neighbor and an oath be laid upon him to make him swear and the oath comes before Your Altar in this House, then hear from heaven and do and judge Your servants by requiting the wicked by recompensing his way upon his own head and by justifying the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness." Rashi (ad loc.) explains that these verses refer to an Israelite who is engaged in a law suit before the Beth Din (rabbinic court) who forces his opponent to take an oath in God's name swearing that he is telling the truth. [Under the Torah law of court procedure, imposing oaths of various kinds on one or both sides in a case is one of the most important sanctions that can be taken to pressure them to tell the truth or else risk the terrible consequences of the curse included in the oath. Imposing of oaths is rarely if ever practiced today because the great majority of people do not understand the seriousness of lying under oath.] If the side that imposes the oath does so truthfully while the side that swears does so falsely, God will hear in heaven, and so will He hear if the side that imposes the oath does so unnecessarily, in which case he is called wicked.
Another explanation of the oath in verses 22-23 is given in Tosephta of Tractate Sotah cited by Rashi, where the man who "sins against his neighbor" is the adulterer who goes with someone else's wife, and who is liable to the consequences of the oath and curse administered to the wife by the priest in the Temple when she drinks the bitter waters in accordance with the laws of Sotah, the disloyal wife (Numbers 5:19). In the light of Rashi's explanation and that of Tosephta Sotah we see how Solomon's prayer teaches that God watches providentially over all the deeds and affairs of men in detail and knows the intentions in their hearts, and repays each one according to his ways.
Vv 24-25: "And if Your people Israel are smitten before the enemy because they have sinned against You, and they repent. forgive the sin of Your people Israel and bring them back to the Land which You gave to them and to their fathers." With Israel today being smitten by our enemies virtually every day on the military, strategic and international diplomatic battlefields, we must learn from these verses and from verses 34-39 below that the only sure way to have our territories restored and to live in them in peace is through repentance and prayer.
Vv 26-31 teach that prayer and repentance are also the first remedy for various natural disasters such as drought, famine, crop failure, locusts and other plagues as well as illness and disease.
Vv 32-3: "Likewise concerning the stranger who is not of Your people Israel. and You hear from the heavens. and do according to everything for which the stranger calls out to You" - "In the case of an Israelite I prayed that You should give him IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS WAYS, but in the case of the stranger, that You should give him according to EVERYTHING for which he calls out to You. This is because Israel recognize the Holy One blessed be He and know that He has the power in His hand to carry out what He wants and if the prayer of an Israelite is not answered, he attributes it to his own sins and examines his deeds. However if the stranger is not answered, he complains of injustice and says, I heard His fame through all the world and I made a great effort and followed many roads until I came and prayed in this place, and I have not found anything of substance here just as in the case of other gods. This is why Solomon prays that 'You should do according to all that the stranger calls out to You'" (Rashi on v 33).
Vv 36-39: Even in exile near or far from their land, Israel must direct their prayers to God specifically through their Land, through the city of Jerusalem and through the Temple - even if it be in ruins. For in their very essence, the Land of Israel , Jerusalem and the Temple all attest to God's watchful providence over all the details of creation and to His responsiveness to prayer and repentance.
V 41: "And now arise, HaShem O God, to Your resting place. "so as not to wander about as until now, from Shilo to Nov and from Nov to Giv'on". ".You and the Ark of Your strength" - "The reason why it is called the Ark of Your STRENGTH is because through it He executed His wonders and mighty deeds against the Philistines" (Rashi ad loc.). These wonders attest to His protective providence over the Ark and over all Israel .
The parallel account of King Solomon's prayer on the inauguration of the Temple as given in I Kings ch 8 continues in vv 55-61 with his blessing and address to the people, asking God to incline our hearts to Him so as to follow His pathways and keep all his commandments, and urging the people to serve Him with all their hearts (I Kings 8 vv 58 & 61). This blessing and appeal to the people is not recorded in our present text here in Chronicles.
On the other hand our present text adds a most important detail that is not recorded in the parallel account in I Kings - namely the descent of FIRE FROM HEAVEN to consume the sacrificial offerings brought by Solomon and the people (I Kings 7:1 & 3). This was the greatest possible testimony to God's watchful providence over the Temple and the indwelling of the Shechinah as well as being the greatest honor to Solomon, the scion of the House of David in whose honor Chronicles was written.
The account of Solomon's inaugural sacrifices and the conclusion of the celebration of the consecration of the Temple as given in our present text vv 4-10 is parallel to the account in I Kings 8:62-66.
In verse 7 of our present text, we read: "And Solomon sanctified the middle of the courtyard that was before the House of HaShem. for the altar of bronze that Solomon had made was not able to contain the burnt offerings and the meal offerings and the fats" (v 7). There is a difference of opinion in the Talmud (Zevachim 59a) as to whether Solomon literally sanctified the floor of the Temple courtyard (AZARAH) with the sanctity of the Altar so as to be able to offer sacrifices on it, or whether this verse in fact alludes to the Altar of stone which Solomon built attached to the floor of the courtyard in order to replace the bronze Altar made by Moses for the Sanctuary in the wilderness (see Rashi on II Chron. 7:7 and KNOW YOUR BIBLE commentary on II Chronicles 4:1).
Verses 12-22 in our present text recounting God's second appearance to Solomon in a dream (following His first dream-revelation to him at Giv'on, II Chron. 1:7-12) are almost identical to the parallel account in I Kings 9:1-9, except for verses 13-16 in our present text, in which God specifically answers Solomon's prayers that He should heed the people's supplications and repentance if He sends them drought, famine and plague (see II Chron. 6:26-28 and Rashi on II Chron. 7:12-13).
God concludes His revelation to Solomon with a warning that the durability of the House of David, the Temple and Israel 's possession of their land is conditional upon our observance of the Torah.
MAY HE TURN OUR HEARTS TO HIM, GATHER IN OUR EXILES AND REBUILD HIS TEMPLE QUICKLY IN OUR DAYS. AMEN.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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