Solomon’s Temple: The Glory And The Destruction – Prof. Simon Goldhill (cambridge University)

The Temple of JerusalemCHAPTER TWO

For those of you who are just joining in. Our study group began a new initiative. We started reading books together and discussing them online.

Please, secure your copy and begin reading the book. (I found a downloadable free copy here and a hard copy here.) I also suggest that you read the discussions about the first chapter as well. To do so click here. Please, read the chapter first and resist the temptation to simply comment on the quotes I provide here. So, here we go:

On pages 22-23 we read: “David draws up the plans, then, but Solomon, David’s son and heir, the wisest of men, is the king chosen to complete the building of the Temple. It is to be a ‘House for the Name of the Lord God’. This is a phrase worth pondering. In the ancient Mediterranean, from our earliest records to the Roman Empire and beyond, there were innumerable temples and holy shrines, from small piles of rocks on mountain tops to the Parthenon in Athens, and there were many similarities in ancient religions from region to region.Temples normally contained an image of the divinity (which was usually anthropomorphic, though certainly not always so), and sacrifices were offered to the god at the temple. Monumental temples were both expressions of a community’s religion and a statement of the community’s power and status. A temple was an easily recognizable feature of the Mediterranean landscape. Solomon’s building was a monumental temple for a national religion, but it was otherwise a very weird temple indeed. It was a temple not for God, but for God’s Name.”

What do you think is a major difference between a temple for God and temple for God’s Name? Is this point a stretch (so to speak)? Is the difference real? Why? Why not?

On pages 36-37 an example of Midrashic imagination is explored: “A heavenly voice directed Solomon to go to Mount Zion at night, to a field owned jointly by two brothers. One of the brothers was a bachelor and poor, the other was blessed both with wealth and a large family of children. It was harvesting time. Under cover of night, the poor brother kept adding to the other’s heap of grain, for, although he was poor, he thought his brother needed more on account of his large family. The rich brother, in the same clandestine way, added to the poor brother’s store, thinking that though he had a family to support, the other was without means. This field, Solomon concluded, which had called forth so remarkable a manifestation of brotherly love, was the best site for the Temple and he bought it.”

How does this story uncover in the words Prof. Goldhill “not so much rock and dust as the sedimented layers of human fantasy, politics and longing”?

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  1. Cynthia

    Interesting…Temple of God vs. Temple for God’s name…very fascinating…This is consistent…even G-d cannot be uttered…We cannot in our minds comprehend or grasp His limitless and awesomeness so we cannot built for God…everything created is His temple so to speak.His name (s) is the best we can do to to manifest His Glory…Names have been. Very important throughout the bible.

  2. Kat Hobaugh

    Dr Eli, the study group comments have been very beneficial to me. A temple for God might be an expression of our love or even our loyalty to “an” image of God. The perhaps bits and pieces of God we might worship in such a temple would be at our discretion. We could love justice and hate mercy and therefore love God and hate our brother. A temple for God’s name must be loyal to all of who God is (character, holiness, etc). Our loyalty to God’s name would result in a manifestation of brotherly love. (1 John 4:20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.)
    Thanks Study Group

  3. Kat Hobaugh

    Okay, so does the addition of the word “Lord” to “name of God” change the meaning? ( “ the name of the Lord your God” ) I am not sure what Lord implies.

    1. Stephen Lockwood

      Kat, the phrase ‘The Lord your God’ (אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם)is an expression of where your loyalty lies. If you are a true follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob you will obey the 2nd commandment to have NO other gods before Him.

      The term Lord (אֲדֹנָי)transliterated adonai pronounced a-doni, means master. In many places the name of God is replaced with the term adonai. This is done to prevent the reader from saying the name of God, incase they might mispronounce it. If you read my earlier response in this blog, you will find out that the Easter mindset is different that our Western on the sanctity of Name; yours, mine,and His.

      Does this make sense?

  4. Deborah G.

    The thought of The Name, Ha Shem, brings to mind another question. I have heard that when God revealed himself by name to Moshe as “I AM” that the Hebrew words really mean one who “is, was, and will be” all rolled up into one. My poor Hebrew skills fail me in determining this for myself.

  5. Deborah G.

    1). Images are inherently idolatrous because they involve fashioning “God” into the form of a creature–animal, man, or angelic being–rather than acknowledging him as Creator. God’s name, in contrast, conveys his infinite, eternal attributes such as omnipresence and omnipotence.
    2). Brotherly love is more palateable than blood sacrifice (Avraham offering Yitschak, the cross of Christ, etc.) Sentimental cries for “world peace” have replaced yearning for the Prince of Peace, Meshiach Ben David.
    “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace,” “shalom, shalom v ain shalom” (Jer. 8:11).
    “While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (I Thes. 5:3).

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Jesus is called in New Testament the Icon (Image) of God.

      1. Jane Neal

        Hi Dr Eli – does Icon or image here mean the “Character” of God, though, meaning his moral, and emotional and spiritual image, rather than anything external? Or am I over spiritualising?

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          You are probably right.

      2. Deborah G.

        Bi emet. A living image, not fashioned by human hands. As John stated, “In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God” and “the logos was made flesh and dwelt among us” (from John 1).

  6. Stephen Lockwood

    Coming from a western perspective, in Eastern thought, having a place for ‘Your Name’ is more significant than we Westerners give credence.

    In the Covenant of the Pieces (ref Genesis 15:7-31) it was required that the two participants exchange names (ref Genesis 17:1-6). Therefore, your name was one of the most important things you had. It represented your character, your reputation, your past and your future.

    To have a place for your name ‘to rest’ was a significant place. We could look at This Temple was significant because it represented all of these aspects of Adonai Tsa’vaot. It is also significant that the place that He would meet with the High Priest would be above the Mercy Seat on top of the Ark that contained His Covenant with His people.

    A Temple FOR Adonai Tsa’vaot would contain a representation of what His people thought He looked like, rather than what He told them to put in it (ref the Parthenon, Temple of Delphi, etc.). That is the difference.

    1. Kat Hobaugh

      Stephen, thanks your additional comment helped. Processing a different viewpoint takes time.

  7. James J. DeFrancisco, PhD

    The true God cannot be contained in a temple made with human hands. Therefore Solomon’s temple is not for the deity but for God’s Name which implies God’s reputation. To that effect, the temple was a wonder.

    Regarding the second question,it is indeed unfortunatate that the temple has been affected by politics and stife when it should have been a house of prayer.

    1. Jane Neal

      Thank you for this, James, I feel this sums up the question of the distinction between the Name of God, and a temple FOR and exclusively for God. In His Name is a phrase which implies all that God means to His creation, His world, and His people, in fact, all peoples, and His generosity is shown not only in this story about 2 brothers, but throughout the whole of His creation. We should be able to act, and live for and in His Name. However, the atonement covers all shortfalls in our case, and provides a way of redemption for us. Without there being a Temple “in His Name”, during OT times no one would have found an access to this redemption.

  8. Peter Michael Thornber

    That the Temple at Jerusalem is a Temple, not for GOD Himself, but rather for His Holy Name, isolates the unique insight He has vouchsafed to Judaism and, by extension, to Christianity, of His utter Transcendence. His Name is a sort of nuncio or channel of communication with His Creation as represented by Man to whom He had delegated the Naming of the beasts. Mankind is further represented by His Chosen People, the Jews and this Election is further whittled down to the High Priest who alone may enter into the Holy of Holies and that only once a year on the day of Atonement to utter the efficacious and ineffable Name of GOD. There are places for Gentiles … Women … Jews … but the innermost sanctum sanctorum is reserved for that High Priest, that Day, that Name [does this progression sound like an horizontal ladder of ascent? ?Cf. the Songs of Degrees]

    It is surely significant that the High Priestly ephod is adorned with bells and pomegranates as the Ark, the Temple’s precursor, had been with Cherubim. it shews how, unconsciously the whole Creation is caught up in the worship of GOD.

    The lovely parable of the two brothers, each furtively transferring grain from his heap to his brother’s is a beautiful illustration of generous, self-forgetting lovingkindness first shewn by GOD in His Creation.

  9. Kat Hobaugh

    Yes I believe there is a difference between a temple for God and a temple for God’s Name. A temple for God would contain the right beliefs or artifacts about God such as The Ten Commandments. The focus in a temple for God’s Name would be the position of God. Similar is found in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

  10. Kimberley Kincher

    From my research, and please let me know if I’m missing something because I’m here to learn 🙂 I’m not an expert in ancient civilizations, but it appears that the main difference between Solomon’s Temple and other temples built during the time was that Solomon’s Temple did not contain any statue or graven image of the likeness of G-d. The purpose of the Temple seemed to be for the benefit of man and his relationship with G-d. In Acts 7:47-50 quoting Isaiah 66:1-2 “Solomon built God a house. However the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is my footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord or what is the place of My rest? Has not My hand made all these things?” The Temple was made as a place for His Name. His Shem. His character and reputation. As we study the Temple, I’m beginning to see some of His attributes expressed in the Temple. This Temple, where G-d was to place His name, was to be a location for mankind to come into right relationship with Him, a place of thanksgiving, repentance, restitution and forgiveness. It was to be a “house of prayer” for the Israelites (1 Kings 8:27-28) and for “all nations” (Isaiah 56:7), a place of refuge for the stranger (1 Kings 8: 41-43. A place to house His Presence. G-d can place His name anywhere or on anyone He choses, and He can remove His name. As for question number two, I can see that for many people the Temple means many things. Prof Goldhill seems to enjoy the story from the Midrash. I get hyped up over the fact that the Temple was built on the same site that Abraham obediently attempted to sacrifice his son Isaac, the place of David’s altar, the threshing floor of the Jebusite. The Temple touches our hearts and minds on different levels and layers of thought.

    1. Shoshanna

      I agree with you; Kiberly; good explanation