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INTRODUCTION TO PSALMS XCIX AND C.
The site of the temple was the summit of a rocky eminence, called Mount Moriah. (2 Chronicles iii, 1.) It lay on the east side of Jerusalem, and on the northeast of Zion. It was anciently a “threshing-floor,” and, like all such places, was chosen for this purpose on account of its elevation and exposure to the wind. It was first purchased by David as a place for offering and sacrifice, after the three days of pestilence. (See Introduction to Psalm xxx.) On the east of Moriah ran the deep valley, or ravine, of Kidron, and on the south and southwest the steep but shallow valley, afterward called Tyropoeon. The ridge of land between these two valleys was divided into different sections, which were called by different names. Moriah was only one of the eminences of this ridge, and at first appears to have been a mound of rock, whose levelled summit was too small for the foundations of the temple. To remedy this evil, immense walls and buttresses were built up from the base of the hill upon its several sides, and the intervals between them and the sides were filled with earth. Thus a wider area upon the top of the hill was secured for the temple and its different cloisters.
To understand the high national importance attached to the building of the temple, it should be remembered that the Hebrews were prohibited from offering sacrifices in promiscuous places of their own chosing, “upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree,” like the heathen; but were restricted in these services to the place which Jehovah himself should choose for them. The law on this subject was explicit. “Unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: and thither ye shall bring your burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave-offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your free-will offerings, and the firstlings of your herds, and of your flocks: and there ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.” (Deuteronomy xii, 5–7, also verse 11; chapter xxvi, 2; and Joshua ix, 27.) The place of the national worship was most clearly to be designated by a Divine order. Besides the innumerable instances in which individuals and families would have occasion to visit this place, the whole nation were expressly required to appear there before the Lord “three times in the year,” (Exodus xxiii, 14–17, and at some of these national gatherings in after days, it has been computed that no less than three million persons have been present at one time. The sacrifices and other services which the religious devotions of such a multitude would require, according to the law of Moses, would necessarily demand a capacious temple and numerous attendant priests. While the Israelites retained their nomadic habits, a moveable tent was better suited to their wants than a permanent edifice; but when they had terminated their wanderings, and had become a nation and an agricultural people, with the government, arts, and customs of a powerful kingdom, they required a more ample and settled arrangement for the services of their religion. Still it was not until the “four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel came out of Egypt,” that Solomon began to build the house of the Lord. This long neglect of the external conveniences of worship God had not reproved; and he reminds them of it now, to show them how much more desirous he had been to impress upon their minds the spiritual truths of religion, than to beautify the outward forms of worship. (2 Samuel vii, 5–7.) During the long period since Joshua and the Israelites first crossed the Jordan, the “tabernacle of the congregation” had remained six years at Gilgal; whence it was removed by Joshua to Shiloh, where it remained about three hundred years; whence it was removed in the days of Samuel to Nob, where it remained about eighty years. From this place it appears Saul removed it to Gibeon, after the destruction of Nob and the priests of that city, 1 Samuel xxii, 19; and in Gibeon the tabernacle remained about fifty-six years, till the completion of the temple. Both David and Solomon worshipped at Gibeon; and I)avid was surprised and overjoyed to find that God would accept a sacrifice on Mount Moriah, while the tabernacle abode in that city. 1 Chronicles xxi, 28–30; 2 Chronicles i, 3. The “ark of the covenant,” which belonged to the inner court, or “holy of holies,” of the tabernacle, having been irreverently brought out of Shiloh into the Israelitish camp, during the judicature of Eli, was captured by the Philistines, by whom also it was soon returned to Beth-shemesh and Kirjath jearim, of Judah, where it remained till David removed it to Zion, and placed it in a new tent. 1 Samuel iv, v, vi, vii, and 2 Samuel vi. This unsettled condition of the sacred things, and the imperfect provision for the regular observance of the Mosaic rites, had early occupied the thoughts of David, who had organized the courses of the Levites for the more regular performance of their duty, had introduced the sacred chants into Divine service, and would himself have built a house to the Lord, but for the prohibition of the Prophet Nathan. The long-expected hour, however, at last arrived, and the consummation of the pious hopes of the nation was realized in the completion of the temple edifice and its munificent arrangements. Before the ceremony of dedication, however, one preliminary act was still necessary. The ark of the covenant must be removed into the holy of holies, or inner apartment of the temple. The utensils and altar of the tabernacle, which was in Gibeon, must also be brought and deposited in their places. The ark, which was still in the new tent which David had prepared for it on Mount Zion, was the sacred deposit of the law of Moses and of the tables of the ten commandments; and its appendages were an association of the most awful symbolism known in the Hebrew ritual. Without this furniture the temple itself was incomplete. This was its crowning glory. The removal of the ark into the temple, therefore, with the holy vessels of the tabernacle, was an event of imposing solemnity and magnificence. The tribes were assembled, the priesthood were all in attendance, the king, the court, the princes of the tribes, the elders and dignitaries, were in their places. The religious reverence of the nation, blending with the triumphal songs of the courses of the Levites, poured forth the incense of pure and heartfelt homage to Jehovah their King and Saviour. “Thus all the work that Solomon made for the house of the
* Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God!
* Exalt the LoRD our God,
An exhortation to praise God cheerfully, 1, 2; for his greatness and his creative goodness, 3; and for his faithfulness, 4, 5.
T A Psalm of Praise.
1 Make a joyful noise unto the LoRD, all 'ye lands. * Serve the LoRD with gladness: Come before his presence with singing. * Know ye that the Lord he is God: It "is he that hath made us, "and not we ourselves; We "are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. * Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, And into his courts with praise: Be thankful unto him, and bless his name. * For the LoRD is good; His mercy is everlasting; And his truth endureth 'to all generations. 1 Heb. the earth. * Or, and his we are. * Heb. to generation
a Psalm 119. 78. b Psalm 95.7. and generation. Eph. 2. 10. Ezek. 84.80, 81. Psa. 89.1.
INTRODUCTION TO PSALM LXXXII.
PSALM OF ASAPH.
Jehoshaphat was one of the wise and good kings of Judah. Excepting the unfortunate affair of his alliance with Ahab, king of Israel, his reign was prosperous and honoured of God. His father Asa had declined in piety in his later years, and matters went ill with him in the kingdom. He had neglected justice, and much more religion; and had finally left his kingdom in an exposed condition, with many enemies, and in a state of bitter hostility to the kingdom of Israel.
Jehoshaphat had no sooner come to the throne, than he engaged in the necessary work of putting his kingdom in a condition of defence. “He placed forces in all the fenced cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim, which Asa his father had taken.” 2 Chronicles xvii, 2. He then turned his attention to the religious state of his people. He removed the “high places and groves” where idolatry had been practised; and in the third year of his reign undertook an important measure for the wider diffusion of religious knowledge. Five princes were chosen, under whom were to serve nine Levites and two priests. These were commissioned and charged to visit all the cities of the kingdom, carrying with them a copy of “the law of the Lord,” to teach the people the doctrines and statutes of the Mosaic religion. This honourable embassy would naturally inspire the people with veneration, and secure a favourable attention to the important lessons communicated.
The king next directed attention to the administration of justice, which had become fearfully remiss throughout the land. He reformed the judicial system throughout the realm, reviving old courts, creating new ones, and appointing such judges as appeared most worthy of this high trust. In Jerusalem the king created an important court, composed of “Levites, priests, and the chief of the fathers of Israel,” who were to judge in all ecclesiastical questions, and to exercise an appellate jurisdiction over all the inferior courts, in all “causes