These chapters deal largely with Solomon building the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem. Lawrence Boadt writes….
Solomon however was remembered for two outstanding achievements: his wisdom was legendary; and he built the temple that became the focal point of Israel’s religious life. Wisdom was the quality of kingship par excellence. From his first days as king, Solomon was accredited with special wisdom. God bestowed it on him as a gift after a dream in Gibeon (1 Kgs 3). He soon showed his ability to make wise decisions in the famous story of how he discovered the true mother of a baby by threatening to split it into two and give part to each claimant (1 Kgs 3). It is affirmed again when he is said to be the author of thousands of proverbs and songs, and to have knowledge of all plants and animals (1 Kgs 4).
Solomon was also a major builder. He constructed the wall around the city of Jerusalem, fortified the major centers of Megiddo, Gezer and Hazor as military bases for his chariot divisions, and created an enormous palace and temple complex north of the city of David on a hill called Zion. Here artisans and craftsmen from Tyre and Sidon worked for twenty years with forced labor gangs from throughout the kingdom. The stories of Solomon center on this impressive building project. 1 Kings 6 and 7 give detailed descriptions of the buildings and their furnishings, and the editors have included an elaborate and lengthy speech in chapter 8 at the dedication of the temple itself. In this speech, Solomon asks God to hear the prayers and accept the sacrifices offered in the temple, and echoes the warning message of Deuteronomy that God has fulfilled all his promises and now demands obedience to his law if prosperity is to continue (1 Kgs 8:56-61).
On this reading, it stood out to me that 1 Kings gives a slightly different reason for why Solomon built the Temple and not his father David who had the vision for it. In 2 Samuel, the Lord turns down David’s idea. Here, in 1 Kings, Solomon says the reason is because David was too involved in warfare but now he, Solomon, has the peace time in which to accomplish his father’s vision (1 Kings 5:3-5).
Also, the dating of this event jumped out at me. The authors/editors of 1 Kings see fit to mention that Solomon began to build the Temple in the 480th year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt. Thus, the authors/editors of 1 Kings tie this story back to the Exodus and the earlier history of Israel. It has taken a long time for the Israelites to get to this point of peace in the Promised Land.
Note that once Solomon was finished building the Temple he brought the tent of meeting into it (1 Kings 8:4). The poles of the Ark of the Covenant were so long that they could be seen from outside the Holy of Holies. The editor adds: “even to this day,” suggesting that 1 Kings was written before the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in the sixth century BCE.
Another notable thing is that when the priests come out of the holy place for the first time, a cloud fills the Temple. Once again, the story here ties back to the wilderness wanderings of Israel, when they were led by a cloud in the daytime and by a pillar of fire at night. This is the glory cloud of God’s presence with his people.
I particularly like the emphasis in Solomon’s prayer on the steadfast love of God (1 Kings 8:23) and the opportunity for even foreigners to be heard by God when they pray toward this Temple (1 Kings 8:42-43). Of course, Jews have prayed, facing Jerusalem ever since the establishment of this first Temple. This practice also led to the construction of Christian sanctuaries of worship in Europe and America with altar facing to the east, toward Jerusalem.