Saturday, October 25, 2014

II Chronicles 4

In II Chronicles 4:16-22, we read the following (in the KJV):

16 The pots also, and the shovels, and the fleshhooks, and all their instruments, did Huram his father make to king Solomon for the house of the LORD of bright brass.
17 In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredathah.
18 Thus Solomon made all these vessels in great abundance: for the weight of the brass could not be found out.
19 And Solomon made all the vessels that were for the house of God, the golden altar also, and the tables whereon the shewbread was set;
20 Moreover the candlesticks with their lamps, that they should burn after the manner before the oracle, of pure gold;
21 And the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs, made he of gold, and that perfect gold;
22 And the snuffers, and the basons, and the spoons, and the censers, of pure gold: and the entry of the house, the inner doors thereof for the most holy place, and the doors of the house of the temple, were of gold.

When I first read that, nothing in particular stood out to me.  Then, I read Jimmy Swaggart’s notes in his Expositor’s Study Bible.  Swaggart was saying that, in this passage, we learn that the pots, shovels, fleshhooks, and instruments that Huram gave to King Solomon had to lose their “old identity” before they could become suitable for the Temple; Swaggart was likening this to believers in Christ being new creations, for whom old things have passed away.

Initially, I did not know how Swaggart was arriving at this conclusion from the text.  But I figured it out.  Huram in v 16 is said to make for King Solomon and the Temple pots, shovels, fleshhooks, and instruments of brass.  In v 17, however, the text goes on to say that the king—-presumably Solomon—-cast those things in the plain of the Jordan.  Swaggart seems to be envisioning this scenario: Huram makes for Solomon these brass instruments for the Temple, and Solomon melts the instruments down and recasts their brass into new instruments in the plains of the Jordan.  It’s like the brass instruments as Huram made them were not good enough for the Temple, and so Solomon needed to melt them down and refashion them.

As homiletically edifying as Swaggart’s interpretation may be, I am not convinced by how Swaggart is interpreting the text here.  What I think is going on is that Huram makes for the king these instruments by casting them in the plains in the Jordan.  They are being cast, not recast, there.  Why does v 17 say, then, that the king—-presumably Solomon—-was the one casting them?  Why couldn’t it just say that Huram did so?  I agree with John Gill’s statement that it is said that the king did so because all of this was taking place under King Solomon’s authority.  Huram may have cast the instruments in the plain, but he was doing so as part of Solomon’s project.

I have at least three reasons for my stance.  First of all, II Chronicles 2:13 highlights that Huram was a skilled artisan.  Why would that be highlighted, if Huram’s artisanship would be rejected as not good enough, and the stuff that he made would be melted down and refashioned?  Second, II Chronicles 4:15 says that Huram made the sea and the twelve oxen that were to support the sea.  I have a hard time believing that Huram made these prominent features of the Temple, and Solomon melted them down and remade the sea and the twelve oxen.  Third, there seems to be vacillation between Huram and Solomon in the text’s narrative.  V 3 says that Solomon made the sea, whereas v 15 states that Huram did so.  It makes sense, in my opinion, to say that both did so: Huram made it, but he did so under Solomon’s authority.

Actually, I would say that my first reason stands on its own.

Why did I go to the effort of trying to refute one of Jimmy Swaggart’s interpretations?  It kind of looks like taking a step forward, then taking a step back towards an interpretation that is not particularly profound: that Huram worked under the authority of King Solomon.  Well, for one, I wanted to write something about II Chronicles 4.  Second, Swaggart did well to highlight how the text was phrased, and that puzzle motivated me to go deeper.  And, third, sometimes studying the Bible is about the journey, not the destination.  I got to learn of a profound homiletical principle, even though I critiqued Swaggart’s interpretation on which it was based.

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