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Bible Com­men­tary on I Kings 8:27

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In I Kings 8:27, we read that :

But will God indeed dwell on the earth ? behold, the heav­en and heav­en of heav­ens can­not con­tain thee ; how much less this house that I have builded ?

The Hebrew and the translit­er­a­tion for the verse above would be

kiy ha’um­naam yeesheeb Elo­hiym al-haa’aarets hineeh hashaa­may­im uush­meey hashaa­may­im lo’ ykalk­luukaa ap kiy-habay­it hazeh ash­er baaniytiy. 

Regard­ing this verse, Hen­ry’s Con­cise Com­men­tary has the fol­low­ing to say :

In this excel­lent prayer, Solomon does as we should do in every prayer ; he gives glo­ry to God. Fresh expe­ri­ences of the truth of God’s promis­es call for larg­er prais­es. He sues for grace and favour from God. The expe­ri­ences we have of God’s per­form­ing his promis­es, should encour­age us to depend upon them, and to plead them with him ; and those who expect fur­ther mer­cies, must be thank­ful for for­mer mer­cies. God’s promis­es must be the guide of our desires, and the ground of our hopes and expec­ta­tions in prayer.1

It is clear that Solomon was con­scious of the fact that how­ev­er splen­did his Tem­ple was, it could not pos­si­bly reflect the glo­ry of God or con­tain his eter­nal Being, as reflect­ed in the above prayer in the form of a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion. Nev­er­the­less, in acknowl­edg­ing God’s omnipres­ence, Solomon expressed his desire that God should be hon­oured at this place and that every Israelite, no mat­ter where he might be, should face toward the Tem­ple when he prayed.

The prayer above rais­es sev­er­al seri­ous ques­tions for the Christians :

  • Could we safe­ly claim that the past Prophets in the Bible were ever con­scious­ly aware of the Trin­i­ty or of the divin­i­ty of Jesus ? If yes, why they (espe­cial­ly Solomon) dis­play such igno­rance of this fun­da­men­tal Chris­t­ian the­ol­o­gy ? If no, are they not saved from their sins due to the sac­ri­fice of Jesus ? 
  • Could Jesus ever pos­si­bly be the God-incar­nate or God in flesh, since the verse above clear­ly refutes such a notion ? If yes, does this mean that the verse above is in error ? 
  • If assum­ing that Jesus is indeed the God-incar­nate who came down to earth, does this mean that God had actu­al­ly lied to Solomon when he (Solomon) was taught that “…the heav­en and heav­en of heav­ens can­not con­tain” Him ?

In sum­ma­ry, Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:27 stark­ly high­lights the vast­ness and incom­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty of God, con­trast­ing sharply with the notion of a God who becomes incar­nate in human form. Solomon’s acknowl­edg­ment that even the heav­ens can­not con­tain God chal­lenges the Chris­t­ian doc­trine of the incar­na­tion, which asserts that God became ful­ly human in the per­son of Jesus Christ. This rais­es seri­ous the­o­log­i­cal ques­tions : If the prophets, includ­ing Solomon, did not grasp the con­cept of the Trin­i­ty or the divin­i­ty of Jesus, are they then exclud­ed from sal­va­tion ? Fur­ther­more, if Jesus is believed to be God incar­nate, does this mean that God lied to Solomon when he prayed about God’s incom­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty and inabil­i­ty to be con­tained ? These ques­tions point to fun­da­men­tal ten­sions with­in Chris­t­ian the­ol­o­gy and the com­plex­i­ties of rec­on­cil­ing bib­li­cal texts with lat­er doc­tri­nal developments.Endmark

  1. Hen­ry’s Con­cise Com­men­tary, under Cita­tion : FIRST KINGS 8, ver 22 – 53[]

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