The king then rose upon the brazen scaffold, knelt down, and spreading his hands toward heaven, uttered the prayer of consecration.
Solomon Builds the Great Temple, featuring a series of excerpts selected from History of the Jews by Henry Hart Milman published in 1829.
Previously in Solomon Builds the Great Temple. Now we continue.
Time: 953 BC
The singers, as it drew near the gate, broke out in these words: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in.” It was answered from the other part of the choir, “Who is the King of Glory?” –the whole choir responded, “The Lord of Hosts, he is the King of Glory.”
When the procession arrived at the Holy Place, the gates flew open; when it reached the Holy of Holies, the veil was drawn back. The Ark took its place under the extended wings of the cherubim, which might seem to fold over, and receive it under their protection. At that instant all the trumpeters and singers were at once to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice, with the trumpets, and cymbals, and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his mercy endureth forever”, the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God. Thus the Divinity took possession of his sacred edifice.
The king then rose upon the brazen scaffold, knelt down, and spreading his hands toward heaven, uttered the prayer of consecration. The prayer was of unexampled sublimity: while it implored the perpetual presence of the Almighty, as the tutelar Deity and Sovereign of the Israelites, it recognized his spiritual and illimitable nature. “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee, how much less this house which I have built?” It then recapitulated the principles of the Hebrew theocracy, the dependence of the national prosperity and happiness on the national conformity to the civil and religious law. As the king concluded in these emphatic terms: — “Now, therefore, arise, O Lord God, into thy resting-place, thou and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and thy saints rejoice in goodness. O Lord God, turn not away the face of thine anointed: remember the mercies of David thy servant,” — cloud which had rested over the Holy of Holies grew brighter and more dazzling; fire broke out and consumed all the sacrifices; the priests stood without, awe-struck by the insupportable splendor; the whole people fell on their faces, and worshipped and praised the Lord, “for he is good, for his mercy is forever”.
Which was the greater, the external magnificence, or the moral sublimity of this scene? Was it the Temple, situated on its commanding eminence, with all its courts, the dazzling splendor of its materials, the innumerable multitudes, the priesthood in their gorgeous attire, the king, with all the insignia of royalty, on his throne of burnished brass, the music, the radiant cloud filling the Temple, the sudden fire flashing upon the altar, the whole nation upon their knees? Was it not rather the religious grandeur of the hymns and of the prayer: the exalted and rational views of the Divine Nature, the union of a whole people in the adoration of the one Great, Incomprehensible, Almighty, Everlasting Creator?
This extraordinary festival, which took place at the time of that of Tabernacles, lasted for two weeks, twice the usual time: during this period twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep were sacrificed, every individual probably contributing to this great propitiatory rite; and the whole people feasting on those parts of the sacrifices which were not set apart for holy uses.
Footnote 6: Gibbon, in one of his malicious notes, observes, “As the blood and smoke of so many hecatombs might be inconvenient, Lightfoot, the Christian Rabbi, removes them by a miracle. Le Clerc (ad loc.) is bold enough to suspect the fidelity of the numbers.” To this I ventured to subjoin the following illustration: “According to the historian Kotobeddyn, quoted by Burckhardt, Travels in Arabia, p. 276, the Khalif Moktader sacrificed during his pilgrimage to Mecca, in the year of the Hegira 350, forty thousand camels and cows, and fifty thousand sheep. Barthema describes thirty thousand oxen slain, and their carcasses given to the poor. Tavernier speaks of one hundred thousand victims offered by the king of Tonquin.” Gibbon, ch. xxiii., iv., p. 96, edit. Milman.