Margaret Barker has plentifully noted that First Temple era Judaism is a radically different religion than the one present in the New Testament (post-Deuteronomist revision) and even further removed than what we would find in you local 2015 synagogue.
One of the most interesting set of verses Barker frequently references is preserved in Chronicles and involves original temple ritual.
1 Chronicles 29:20-23
And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, and the king. And they sacrificed sacrifices unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings unto the LORD, on the morrow after that day, even a thousand bullocks, a thousand rams, and a thousand lambs, with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel: And did eat and drink before the LORD on that day with great gladness. And they made Solomon the son of David king the second time, and anointed him unto the LORD to be the chief governor, and Zadok to be priest. Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him.
Originally the King of Israel, sat on the throne of the Lord in the Holy of Holies and was worshiped as God. Very much like the ancient Egyptian religion, Israel’s king was divine, functioning as both a political and a priestly leader, or a king-priest.
I’ve been toying with the idea that maybe Solomon was a restorer-figure. We give him an overall bad rap, mostly because of having 600+ wives. But let’s take a brief look at some facts:
– He was visited by the Lord (1 Kings 3:5), who asked him what he desired. This is a remarkably similar scene to when the Lord grants the desires of his disciples and apostles. Solomon desired an “understanding heart to judge [the] people,” which the Lord granted.
– He directed the building of the temple, which was meant to replace the earlier (and portable) tabernacle and renew the forms given to Moses. However, this was not simply an attempt to recreate past instructions given to Moses. David, his father, had received a new and independent revelation from Moses outlining the dimensions and symbols of the temple (1 Chronicles 28:19). David, however, was not permitted to build the temple because he was a man of blood (1 Chronicles 28:3). It is significant that these details were removed from the Deuteronomist account in Kings.
– When the temple was completed and dedicated, the glory and cloud of the Lord rested upon the temple (1 Kings 8).
– As previously noted, Solomon sat in the Holy of Holies and was worshiped and obeyed by the children of Israel as God (1 Chronicles 29:20-23). This aspect of original temple ritual was deleted for the Deuteronomist history, but preserved in Chronicles (the Septuagint title of Chronicles is “Things Left Out,” a fun fact you should know). A careful reader will also discover that the chronology (note the pun) is off between the two accounts, David dying after the temple is dedicated in the Chronicles account, leaving his final blessing upon the congregation at the dedication. Infallibility of the Bible, my ass.
– He was visited by the Lord a second time after the temple was built (1 Kings 9:2), and was granted a covenant. In this same visit, the Lord also accepted and consecrated the temple which he built.
– Solomon had many wives. I have previously proposed that this may be teaching tool we do not appreciate here. As I wrote in that post, I am not fully comfortable with the idea, but believe it’s an idea worth considering. Another aside, I think Solomon had sixty wives, not six hundred (Song of Solomon 6:8). I think the number got blown out of proportion as some sort of Iron-Age chest beating, similar to how Goliath is smaller in the earlier Dead Sea Scrolls version of the Bible.
– I’ll leave Solomon’s sins mostly untouched. His sins of idolatry and worship of Ashtaroth may be rewritten to dissuade later readers from honoring Asherah, the wife of El, of the Cannanite religion. I’m not recommending moving forward with some sort of worship of a mother goddess without a new explicit revelation in our dispensation, just noting we may ascribe evil to Solomon that was not originally present.
– Admittedly a stretch (but this is all speculation after all), one of the Jesus titles of Jesus is the “son of David.”
I suggest we refrain from judging Solomon. He, under direction of God, founded a new era of Judaism (what scholars refer to as First Temple era). There is a typical outlook in Mormonism to view the whole of Jewish history as lesser and possessing only Aaronic or Levitical priesthood. What if Solomon established a new temple as a king-priest or Melchizedek priest? That temple was accepted by the Lord, though its original rituals and liturgy are masked by redactor and time.
The cloud of glory seen at Sinai returned to Israel at this time. We may not view the Israelites as possessing a “fullness” like us, but can you name a recent LDS temple dedication where the cloud of the Lord appeared? Avoid looking down your nose.
What if we ascribe evil to Solomon, because the reforms of Josiah and the Deuteronomists successfully changed the entire religion? What if Solomon was a restorer of the gospel, the temple, and the priesthood? What if we speak evil of a man who was approved of and obtained a covenant of God?
I pray if this is the case, the Lord forgive us of our ignorance.