We have here an account of the brass-work about the temple. There was no iron about the temple, though we find David preparing for the temple iron for things of iron, 1 Chron. 29:2. What those things were we are not told, but some of the things of brass are here described and the rest mentioned.
I. The brasier whom Solomon employed to preside in this part of the work was Hiram, or Huram (2 Chron. 4:11), who was by his mother’s side an Israelite, of the tribe of Naphtali, by his father’s side a man of Tyre, 1 Kgs. 7:14. If he had the ingenuity of a Tyrian, and the affection of an Israelite to the house of God (the head of a Tyrian and the heart of an Israelite), it was happy that the blood of the two nations mixed in him, for thereby he was qualified for the work to which he was designed. As the tabernacle was built with the wealth of Egypt, so the temple with the wit of Tyre. God will serve himself by the common gifts of the children of men.
II. The brass he made use of was the best he could get. All the brazen vessels were of bright brass (1 Kgs. 7:45), good brass, so the Chaldee, that which was strongest and looked finest. God, who is the best, must be served and honoured with the best.
III. The place where all the brazen vessels were cast was the plain of Jordan, because the ground there was stiff and clayey, fit to make moulds of for the casting of the brass (1 Kgs. 7:46), and Solomon would not have this dirty smoky work done in or near Jerusalem.
IV. The quantity was not accounted for. The vessels were unnumbered (so it may be read, 1 Kgs. 7:47; as well as unweighed), because they were exceedingly numerous, and it would have been an endless thing to keep the account of them; neither was the weight of the brass, when it was delivered to the workmen, searched or enquired into; so honest were the workmen, and such great plenty of brass they had, that there was no danger of wanting. We must ascribe it to Solomon’s care that he provided so much, not to his carelessness that he kept no account of it.
V. Some particulars of the brass-work are described.
1. Two brazen pillars, which were set up in the porch of the temple (1 Kgs. 7:21), whether under the cover of the porch or in the open air is not certain; it was between the temple and the court of the priests. These pillars were neither to hang gates upon nor to rest any building upon, but purely for ornament and significancy. (1.) What an ornament they were we may gather from the account here given of the curious work that was about them, chequer-work, chain-work, net-work, lily-work, and pomegranates in rows, and all of bright brass, and framed no doubt according to the best rules of proportion, to please the eye. (2.) Their significancy is intimated in the names given them (1 Kgs. 7:21): Jachin—he will establish; and Boaz—in him is strength. Some think they were intended for memorials of the pillar of cloud and fire which led Israel through the wilderness: I rather think them designed for memorandums to the priests and others that came to worship at God’s door, [1.] To depend upon God only, and not upon any sufficiency of their own, for strength and establishment in all their religious exercises. When we come to wait upon God, and find our hearts wandering and unfixed, then by faith let us fetch in help from heaven: Jachin—God will fix this roving mind. It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace. We find ourselves weak and unable for holy duties, but this is our encouragement: Boaz—in him is our strength, who works in us both to will and to do. I will go in the strength of the Lord God. Spiritual strength and stability are to be had at the door of God’s temple, where we must wait for the gifts of grace in the use of the means of grace. [2.] It was a memorandum to them of the strength and establishment of the temple of God among them. Let them keep close to God and duty, and they should never lose their dignities and privileges, but the grant should be confirmed and perpetuated to them. The gospel church is what God will establish, what he will strengthen, and what the gates of hell can never prevail against. But, with respect to this temple, when it was destroyed particular notice was taken of the destroying of these pillars (2 Kgs. 25:13, 17), which had been the tokens of its establishment, and would have been so if they had not forsaken God.
2. A brazen sea, a very large vessel, above five yards in diameter, and which contained above 500 barrels of water for the priests’ use, in washing themselves and the sacrifices, and keeping the courts of the temple clean, 1 Kgs. 7:23-26 It stood raised upon the figures of twelve oxen in brass, so high that either they must have stairs to climb up to it or cocks at the bottom to draw water from it. The Gibeonites, or Nethinim, who were to draw water for the house of God, had the care of filling it. Some think Solomon made the images of oxen to support this great cistern in contempt of the golden calf which Israel had worshipped, that (as bishop Patrick expresses it) the people might see there was nothing worthy of adoration in those figures; they were fitter to make posts of than to make gods of. Yet this prevailed not to prevent Jerusalem’s setting up the calves for deities. In the court of the tabernacle there was only a laver of brass provided to wash in, but in the court of the temple a sea of brass, intimating that by the gospel of Christ much fuller preparation is made for our cleansing than was by the law of Moses. That had a laver, this has a sea, a fountain opened, Zech. 13:1.
3. Ten bases, or stands, or settles, of brass, on which were put ten lavers, to be filled with water for the service of the temple, because there would not be room at the molten sea for all that had occasion to wash there. The bases on which the lavers were fixed are very largely described here, 1 Kgs. 7:27-30 They were curiously adorned and set upon wheels, that the lavers might be removed as there was occasion; but ordinarily they stood in two rows, five on one side of the court and five on the other, 1 Kgs. 7:39. Each laver contained forty baths, that is, about ten barrels, 1 Kgs. 7:38. Those must be very clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Spiritual priests and spiritual sacrifices must be washed in the laver of Christ’s blood and of regeneration. We must wash often, for we daily contract pollution, must cleanse our hands and purify our hearts. Plentiful provision is made for our cleansing; so that if we have our lot for ever among the unclean it will be our own fault.
4. Besides these, there was a vast number of brass pots made to boil the flesh of the peace-offerings in, which the priests and offerers were to feast upon before the Lord (see 1 Sam. 2:14); also shovels, wherewith they took out the ashes of the altar. Some think the word signifies flesh-hooks, with which they took meat out of the pot. The basins also were made of brass, to receive the blood of the sacrifices. These are put for all the utensils of the brazen altar, Exod. 38:3. While they were about it they made abundance of them, that they might have a good stock by them when those that were first in use wore out and went to decay. Thus Solomon, having wherewithal to do so, provided for posterity.