Notice that it takes place: “At the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month” (1 Kings 8:2). From the month and the length of the celebration (seven days to which are added another seven out of joy for the dedication, 1 Kings 8:65), we understand this to be the Feast of the Tabernacles celebrated along with the dedication of the temple. Remember that regarding this feast, Yahweh commanded, “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall
dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel
dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:42-43). Just as we read the memorable announcement about the construction of the temple two chapters ago: “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt… he began to build the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 6:1), now in chapter 8 we have another reminder of Yahweh’s faithfulness over the centuries, from the exodus until the present time, by the celebration of the Feast of the Tabernacles alongside the dedication of the temple.
This makes Solomon’s observation and blessing even more impactful: “Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56). We are in an unforgettable and climactic moment in the history of Yahweh’s faithfulness to His people.
The ties with Yahweh’s faithfulness continue with His Presence in the temple.
The book of Exodus closed with the arrival of Yahweh’s Presence to dwell in the temple: “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34-35). Yahweh shepherded His people in all of their journeys: “Throughout all
their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the
people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up” (Exodus 40:36-37). Now Yahweh confirms His Presence with Israel in the new temple by appearing in the same manner: “And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 8:10-11). And the arrival of His Presence to dwell in the temple, a fixed site, gives his people hope that the peace and rest they are enjoying now would be permanent: “I have indeed built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever” (1 Kings 8:13).
Another association with the Exodus and Yahweh’s Presence comes from the Ark of the Covenant. It serves as an essential part of the temple just as it had in the tabernacle (1 Kings 8:6). Besides the importance of the ark is the importance of its contents: “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 8:9). Attention to the Ten Commandments will motivate Solomon’s petitions for forgiveness of sins. They awaken the recognition of sin.
Note the centrality of prayer not only on the day of dedication but also in the entire temple service:“Have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays for you this day”(1 Kings 8:28). “Listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place” (1 Kings 8:30). “Then hear in heaven and act” (1 Kings 8:32); “then hear in heaven” (1 Kings 8:34, 36, 39, 43, 45, 49). “Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you” (1 Kings 8:52). Of course this emphasis on prayer does not exclude the sacrifices that dominated the tabernacle service (see only 1 Kings 8:5, 63-64 for the continuing importance of the sacrifices). It simply makes the
importance of prayer stand out in the relationship between the people of Israel and their living God and the significance of the temple as the consecrated place to offer it.
Notice also that Solomon’s petitions are directed by reflective thought on Yahweh’s revelation up to this time. They echo the lists of curses for disobedience to the covenant as found in Leviticus 26:14-45 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68. They celebrate Yahweh’s covenant with David, His anointed (1 Kings 8:15-21, 24-26).
They recognize Yahweh’s just dominion (1 Kings 8:31-32), His desire to bless the nations through Israel (1 Kings 8:41-43, 60) and His love for Israel as His treasured possession (1 Kings 8:53, in agreement with Exodus 19:5 and Deuteronomy 7:6). Solomon’s prayer is the fruit of devotion to Yahweh and His word. As such, it is an exemplary prayer that rests in Yahweh’s faithfulness through His covenant and looks to the future for the continued fulfillment of His blessings.
To summarize, this chapter directs us through the glory of Solomon and the temple to the glory of the exalted God, Yahweh, worthy of adoration and prayer: “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart” (1 Kings 8:23). “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other” (1 Kings 8:60).