Question: "What happened at the dedication of Solomon's temple?"
Answer: Solomon’s father, David, initially conceived the idea of building a temple in God’s honor. While God acknowledged David’s good intentions, He assigned the work to King Solomon (2 Samuel 7:1–13). The switch was due to David’s history as a warrior and his involvement in bloodshed (2 Chronicles 22:6–9). Solomon’s reign was a peaceful one, the ideal time to build a temple.
Solomon accomplished the task. With the help of King Hiram of Tyre, he constructed a magnificent temple and palace (1 Kings 6—7). Following the completion of the construction, he stored his father’s dedicated treasures to the temple (1 Kings 7:51). Then he dedicated the temple itself, and the following events unfolded:
A Huge Sacrifice
Before the priests brought the ark into the temple, King Solomon and the entire community made a huge sacrifice, such that the sheep and cattle “could not be recorded or counted” (1 Kings 8:5). Everything on this day was done on a grand scale to celebrate the joy of God’s house being completed and God’s people dwelling in safety in God’s land.
Bringing in the Ark of the Covenant
The ark was previously kept in the tabernacle. After Solomon built the temple, the priests, elders, and tribal leaders accompanied the ark and other valuables into the temple (1 Kings 8:1).
The ark of the covenant symbolized God’s presence, making this event in the dedication of the temple as of great significance. Without the ark, the temple would have been merely a gigantic building. The priests placed the ark in the Most Holy Place (1 Kings 8:6), where the people were not likely to ever see it again.
A Heavy Cloud
As the priests exited the Holy Place, a dense cloud filled the entire temple This cloud served as a physical manifestation of the Lord’s presence and His acceptance of the temple Solomon had built. It was so thick that it impeded the priests’ service (1 Kings 8:10–11).
Recognizing the cloud as a manifestation of the Lord’s presence, Solomon proclaimed, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever” (1 Kings 8:12–13).
Blessings and Prayers and Fire
The next portion of the event was the benediction and prayers offered by Solomon. His prayer commenced with praises, acknowledging that it was God who kept His promise by ensuring the completion of the temple (1 Kings 8:15–21, 23–24). Solomon also made supplications for the people and blessed them (1 Kings 8:14, 30–53, 55–61).
At the end of King Solomon’s prayer, something marvelous happened: “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple” (1 Chronicles 7:1). This event was reminiscent of the dedication of the tabernacle under Moses: “Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown” (Leviticus 9:24). Similarly, in Solomon’s day, “when all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, ‘He is good; his love endures forever’” (verse 3).
The Dedication Proper
King Solomon, along with the entire people of Israel, offered additional sacrifices to dedicate the temple. In accordance with his practice of generous offerings, Solomon presented “22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats” (1 Kings 6:63). The altar, as large as it was, was far too small to handle all the sacrifices, so, “on that same day the king consecrated the middle part of the courtyard in front of the temple of the Lord, and there he offered burnt offerings, grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings, because the bronze altar that stood before the Lord was too small to hold the burnt offerings, the grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings” (verse 64).
Subsequently, the Israelites celebrated the Feast of Booths for seven days, with the entire dedication event lasting fourteen days. After that, Solomon sent everyone home, and “they blessed the king and then went home, joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the Lord had done for his servant David and his people Israel” (1 Kings 8:66).
Following the festival and dedication of the temple, God responded to Solomon’s prayer with an affirmative statement: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there” (1 Kings 9:3).
However, God then presented a conditional promise similar to the conditions outlined in the law (see Deuteronomy 28). He said, “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did. . . . I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever. . . . But if you or your descendants turn away from me . . . then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name” (1 Kings 9:4–7). Tragically, the latter happened.