Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
2 Chronicles 7:1
The divine confirmation of the dedication of the temple. - Ch2 7:1-10. The consecration of the sacrificial service by fire from heaven (Ch2 7:1-3), and the sacrifices and festival of the people (Ch2 7:4-10).
At the conclusion of Solomon's prayer there fell fire from heaven, which devoured the burnt-offering and the thank-offering, and the glory of the Lord filled the house, so that the priests could not enter the house of Jahve. The assembled congregation, when they saw the fire and the glory of the Lord descend, bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped God to praise. Now since this narrative is not found in Kg1 8:54., and there a speech of Solomon to the whole congregation, in which he thanks God for the fulfilment of His promise, and expresses the desire that the Lord would hear his prayers at all times, and bestow the promised salvation on the people, is communicated, modern criticism has rejected this narrative of the Chronicle as a later unhistorical embellishment of the temple dedication. "If we turn our attention," says Berth. in agreement with Then., "to Ch2 5:11-14, and compare Ch2 5:14 with our second verse, we must maintain that our historian found that there existed two different narratives of the proceedings at the dedication of the temple, and received both into his work. According to the one narrative, the clouds filled the house (Kg1 8:10, cf. Ch2 5:11-14); and after this was done Solomon uttered the prayer, with the conclusion which we find in 1 Kings 8; according to the other narrative, Solomon uttered the prayer, with the conclusion which we find in Chron., and God thereafter gave the confirmatory signs. Now we can hardly imagine that the course of events was, that the glory of Jahve filled the house (Ch2 5:14); that then Solomon spoke the words and the prayer in 2 Chron 6; that while he uttered the prayer the glory of Jahve again left the house, and then came down in a way manifest to all the people (Ch2 7:3), in order to fill the house for a second time." Certainly it was not so; but the narrative itself gives no ground for any such representation. Not a word is said in the text of the glory of Jahve having left the temple during Solomon's prayer. The supposed contradiction between Ch2 5:14 and the account in Ch2 7:1-3 is founded entirely on a misinterpretation of our verse. The course of events described here was, as the words run, this: Fire came down from heaven upon the sacrifices and devoured them, and the glory of the Lord filled the house; and this is in Ch2 7:3 more exactly and precisely repeated by the statement that the people saw the fire and the glory of Jahve descend upon the house. According to these plain words, the glory of Jahve descended upon the temple in the fire which came down from heaven. In the heavenly fire which devoured the sacrifices, the assembled congregation saw the glory of the Lord descend upon the temple and fill it. But the filling of the temple by the cloud when the ark was brought in and set in its place (Ch2 5:13) can be without difficulty reconciled with this manifestation of the divine glory in the fire. Just as the manifestation of the gracious divine presence in the temple by a cloud, as its visible vehicle, does not exclude the omnipresence of God or His sitting enthroned in heaven, God's essence not being so confined to the visible vehicle of His gracious presence among His people that He ceases thereby to be enthroned in heaven, and to manifest Himself therefrom; so the revelation of the same God from heaven by a descending fire is not excluded or set aside by the presence of the cloud in the holy place of the temple, and in the most holy. We may consequently quite well represent to ourselves the course of events, by supposing, that while the gracious presence of God enthroned above the cherubim on the ark made itself known in the cloud which filled the temple, or while the cloud filled the interior of the temple, God revealed His glory from heaven, before the eyes of the assembled congregation, in the fire which descended upon the sacrifices, so that the temple was covered or overshadowed by His glory. The parts of this double manifestation of the divine glory are clearly distinguished even in our narrative; for in Ch2 5:13-14 the cloud which filled the house, as vehicle of the manifestation of the divine glory, and which hindered the priests from standing and serving (in the house, i.e., in the holy place and the most holy), is spoken of; while in our verses, again, it is the glory of God which descended upon the temple in the fire coming down from heaven on the sacrifices, and so filled it that the priests could not enter it, which is noticed.
Since, therefore, the two passages involve no contradiction, the hypothesis of a compounding together of discrepant narratives loses all standing ground; and it only remains to determine the mutual relations of the two narratives, and to answer the question, why the author of the book of Kings has omitted the account of the fire which came down from heaven upon the sacrifices, and the author of the Chronicle the blessing of the congregation (Kg1 8:54-61). From the whole plan and character of the two histories, there can be no doubt that in these accounts we have not a perfect enumeration of all the different occurrences, but only a record of the chief things which were done. The authority made use of by both, however, doubtless contained both the blessing of the congregation (Kg1 8:55-61) and the account of the fire which devoured the sacrifices (Ch2 7:2-3); and probably the latter preceded the blessing spoken by Solomon to the congregation (Kings). In all probability, the fire dame down from heaven immediately after the conclusion of the dedicatory prayer, and devoured the sacrifices lying upon the altar of burnt-offering; and after this had happened, Solomon turned towards the assembled congregation and praised the Lord, because He had given rest to His people, of which the completion of the temple, and the filling of it with the cloud of the divine glory, was a pledge. To record this speech of Solomon to the congregation, falls wholly in with the plan of the book of Kings, in which the prophetic interest, the realization of the divine purpose of grace by the acts and omissions of the kings, is the prominent one; while it did not lie within the scope of his purpose to enter upon a detailed history of the public worship. We should be justified in expecting the fire which devoured the sacrifices to be mentioned in the book of Kings, only if the temple had been first consecrated by this divine act to be the dwelling-place of the gracious presence of God, or a sanctuary of the Lord; but such significance the devouring of the sacrifices by fire coming forth from God did not possess. Jahve consecrated the temple to be the dwelling-place of His name, and the abode of His gracious presence, in proclaiming His presence by the cloud which filled the sanctuary, when the ark was brought into the most holy place. The devouring of the sacrifices upon the altar by fire from heaven was merely the confirmatory sign that the Lord, enthroned above the ark in the temple, accepted, well pleased, the sacrificial service carried on on the altar of this temple; and since the people could draw near to the Lord only with sacrifices before the altar, it was a confirmatory sign that He from His throne would bestow His covenant grace upon those who appeared before him with sacrifices; cf. Lev 9:23. Implicitly, this grace was already secured to the people by God's consecrating the sanctuary to be the throne of His grace by the cloud which filled the temple; and the author of the book of Kings thought it sufficient to mention this sign, and passed over the second, which only served as a confirmation of the first. With the chronicler the case was different; for his plan to portray in detail the glory of the worship of the former time, the divine confirmation of the sacrificial worship, which was to be carried on continually in the temple as the only legitimate place of worship, by fire from heaven, was so important that he could not leave it unmentioned; while the words of blessing spoken by Solomon to the congregation, as being already implicitly contained in the dedicatory prayer, did not appear important enough to be received into his book. For the rest, the sacrifices which the fire from heaven devoured are the sacrifices mentioned in Ch2 5:6, which the king and the congregation had offered when the ark was borne into the temple. As there was an immense number of these sacrifices, they cannot all have been offered on the altar of burnt-offering, but, like the thank-offerings afterwards brought by Solomon and the congregation, must have been offered on the whole space which had been consecrated in the court for this purpose (Ch2 7:7). This is expressly attested by Ch2 7:7, for the העלות can only be the sacrifices in Ch2 5:6, since the sacrifices in Ch2 7:5 of our chapter were only שׁלמים; cf. Kg1 8:62.
The sacrifices and the festival. After fire from heaven had devoured the sacrifices, and Solomon had praised the Lord for the fulfilment of His word, and sought for the congregation the further bestowal of the divine blessing (Kg1 8:54-61), the dedication of the temple was concluded by a great thank-offering, of which we have in Ch2 7:5, Ch2 7:6 an account which completely agrees with Kg1 8:62-63. - In Ch2 7:6 the author of the Chr. again makes express mention of the singing and playing of the Levites when these offerings were presented. In the performance of this sacrificial act the priests stood על־משׁמרותם, in their stations; but that does not signify separated according to their divisions (Berth.), but in officiis suis (Vulg.), i.e., ordines suos et functiones suas a Davide 1 Chron. Ch2 24:7. institutas servarunt (Ramb.); see on Num 8:26. The Levites with the instruments of song of Jahve, which David had made, i.e., with the instruments invented and appointed by David for song to the praise of the Lord. בּידם דויד בּהלּל, not hymnos David canentes per manus suas (Vulg.), taking דויד הלּל for the praising appointed by David, which by the hands of the Levites, i.e., was performed by the hands of the Levites (Berth.), but literally: when David sang praise by their hand (i.e., their service). This clause seems to be added to the relative clause, "which king David had made," for nearer definition, and to signify that the Levites used the same instruments which David had introduced when he praised God by the playing of the Levites. The form מחצצרים as in Ch1 15:24.
Ch2 7:7 contains a supplementary remark, and the ו relat. expresses only the connection of the thought, and the verb is to be translated in English by the pluperfect. For the rest, compare on Ch2 7:4-10 the commentary on Kg1 8:62-66.
The Lord's answer to Solomon's dedicatory prayer. Cf. Kg1 9:1-9. The general contents, and the order of the thoughts in the divine answer in the two texts, agree, but in the Chronicle individual thoughts are further expounded than in the book of Kings, and expressions are here and there made clear. The second clause of Ch2 7:11 is an instance of this, where "and all the desire of Solomon, which he was pleased to do," is represented by "and all that came into Solomon's heart, to make in the house of the Lord and in his own house, he prosperously effected." Everything else is explained in the Com. on 1 Kings 9.