Covenant Through New Eyes: Part 7 – The World of the Temple
Welcome to Part 7 of my Covenant Through New Eyes series. Today’s post will explore the World of the Temple. Thus far in the series we’ve noted how the Old Testament presents the reader with different historical/covenantal shifts throughout. Each covenantal shift is preceded by the “tearing down” of the prior “covenantal world” before the world is recreated by God. With each new covenantal recreation there are corresponding changes in the way that God relates to his covenant people. According to James Jordan’s book Through New Eyes these changes are most evidently seen in the following areas:
First, there are the new names that God reveals himself to his people by and the new name He gives His people. Secondly, God presents his people with a new “grant” through which He intends to bless them. Third, God makes new promises to his people now that they have been restructured and recreated. Fourth, there are new covenantal “stipulations” for inter-societal relations and sacramental . Fifth, God ordains a new polity in both the “church” and the “state.” Finally, the capstone of each new covenantal world is the new symbol which encapsulates and sheds light on all the other changes.
In the World of the Tabernacle (Part 6) we saw that the name that God revealed Himself by was “The Lord” (Yahweh or Jehovah) and the term “Israel” rather than “Hebrews” becomes the prevailing term for God’s people. The grant that God gave to Israel was Canaan. The promise that God gave Israel was that he will be “with them” and “in their midst.” The sacramental stipulations that were installed were the Passover and the entire sacrificial system. The societal stipulations installed are seen throuhout the Mosaic Law. The polity for the church centered on the Priests at the Tabernacle and the Levites at the synagogues. The new polity for the state was the installation of the judges. The symbol was the tabernacle. (all pg. 217)
As one reads through this period of the Old Covenant it is not hard to see the decline of the tabernacle establishment during the time of the Judges. Israel wanted a king like all the other nations. “Their desire for a human king was thus both an anticipation of the next covenant, and also a symptom of moral decline.” (pg. 221) This is how God works. When he intends to bring about a new order he does so through the breakdown of a previous order. Jesus told his followers that it is foolish to put new wine into old wineskins lest the old wineskins burst. This is the principle behind covenantal change. When God is about to relate to his people in new ways (new wine) He first looks to prepare His people to receive (new wineskins).
It no longer made sense for God’s sanctuary to be in a tabernacle/tent now that Israel was (more or less) established in the land of Canaan. In Part 6 we saw that both the Hebrew people and the Tabernacle were images of “God’s House.” Because the Hebrews were moving through the wilderness and not settling in the land it made sense that God’s symbolic house, the Tabernacle, should take the form of a portable tent. But now that God’s house, Israel, were settling in Canaan it is appropriate that God’s symbolic house would change from a portable Tabernacle to a settled temple.
Like most of God’s covenantal actions there are several layers at play throughout the storyline. In the World of the Temple we have interplay between the storylines of the king(s) (Saul/David/Solomon), the priesthood (Ithamar/Ahimelech/Abiathar vs. Eleazar/Zadok), the Ark, and the Temple, among other things. Unfaithfulness in these areas tends toward the breaking down of the old order while faithfulness in these areas tends towards the establishment of a new world. The movements of the Ark determined the actions of the kings which had an effect on the lives of the priests. All of this caused either the destruction of the world of the Tabernacle or the creation of the World of the Temple. Jordan summarizes the transition nicely in the following:
During Samuel’s judgeship, the Ark was at Kiriath-jearim and the Tabernacle and High Priest were at Shiloh. During Saul’s kingship, the Ark was at Kiriath-jearim, the Tabernacle at Nob, and the High Priest in the wilderness with David. During David’s reign, the Ark was in Jerusalem with Abiathar, and the Tabernacle was at Gibeon with Zadok. Under Solomon, the Ark was re-enthroned in the Temple with Zadok as High Priest. Putting all this together indicates that God refused to put the Ark back into a House until the line of Eli (High Priest) was out of the way, and the transition to the new priesthood (Eleazaor’s line/Zadok) was completed. (pg. 226)
In the World of the Tabernacle we considered how the Tabernacle was not only a symbol of God’s house but also a symbol of the entire creation. We noted (with Jordan’s help) that God created a “three-storied world” in the original creation. The “three stories” can be seen in many different places throughout the creational account but a few obvious ones can be easily observed. The original creation was divided into the (1) earth below, (2) the heavens above, and (3) the heaven’s heaven. The “earth below” can also be divided into a three storied world: (1) the land, (2) the sea, and (3) the sky. Finally, the land can be divided into three stories as well: (1) the garden, (2) Eden, and (3) the world. We saw that the three levels of the Tabernacle corresponded symbolically to the three storied nature of God’s world.
The World of the Temple expands on the symbolism of God’s three storied world through the symbolism of the Temple complex. The first example Jordan draws to his reader’s attention is Mount Zion as a whole. Jerusalem being built on Mount Zion replicates the (1) garden, (2) Eden, and (3) the world from the original creation. The Temple and Palace sit on Mount Moriah (high place of Zion) as a recreated garden-sanctuary. With both the Temple and the palace being here there is a symbolic restoration of both the Garden and the first Adam in the king. The city of Jerusalem, being south of the Temple on “Zion proper,” represents a “citified Eden.” Finally, the undeveloped mountain below Jerusalem represents the world. (pg. 228)
The Temple itself, just like the tabernacle, symbolically represents the “political cosmos” of the Davidic era. In the temple everything takes on a much larger and grander form. The Holy Place and the Most Holy place grow both in size and glory.
The courtyard outside the temple vastly increased as well. Moreover there was external symbolism outside the Temple that was available to the common people for contemplation. The laver of the Tabernacle was replaced by a huge bronze sea that rested upon 12 bulls. The 12 bulls replicated the encampment of Israel around the Tabernacle from the previous covenantal administration. Further, there were two pillars placed outside the entrance to the Holy Place. According to Jordan these pillars represented the High Priests. The increase in the glory of the courtyard symbolically represents the increased access the common people (not just the priesthood) had to God’s presence. (pg. 231)
Like all covenantal worlds under the Old Covenant the inevitable result is that of decline. No sooner does a reader of the Biblical story see the glories of Solomon than read of the decline of the kingdom. Israel is rent in two, the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The prophets Elijah and Elisha announce God’s impending judgement over the World of the Temple if Israel and Judah don’t repent. But as Moses prophesied long ago, all the curses of Deuteronomy 28 come crashing down on unrepentant Israel.
To following summarizes the World of the Temple in James Jordan’s perspective:
God: “Lord God,” which in Hebrew is “the Master, the Lord.”
People: “The House of David”
The city of Jerusalem, as capital of the Kingdom
God will not forsake the House of David
Sacramental: Slight changes in the worship system reflecting the change from Tabernacle to Temple.
Societal: The new constitution of the Kingdom, in particular the rule that the King hearken to the prophet.
Church: Priests at Temple, prophets and Levites at synagogues.
State: Elders and judges, with King at the top
The Palace/Temple Complex. (pg. 237-238)
Food for thought.