Monday, February 27, 2023

Serving in Solomon's Temple


Let’s talk about serving in the temple:
Around 966 BC, King Solomon built an elaborate, permanent dwelling place for the Lord. His father, King David had already set aside all the materials and the plans, and Solomon was eager and willing to do oversee the construction.
                                                                                    Tissot Solomon Dedicates the Temple at Jerusalem. (wikimedia)

Along with the half-month dedication ceremony, Solomon appointed workers to serve in every aspect of the day-to-day running of the temple, including priests, high priests, musicians, gatekeepers, bakers, perfumers, treasurers, etc..

Those who were qualified to serve were members of the tribe of Levi (according to the delegation from the Lord back in the days of the wilderness wandering). Those from the line of Aaron were eligible to be priests (all priests were Levites, not all Levites were priests).

                                                                     Jewish Priests (wikimedia)

I don’t know about you, but when I had thought of priests and Levites serving in the temple, I guess I pictured continual service.

That would have been true of some, the High Priest (i.e. Annas and Caiaphas in Jesus time.) who served in the position for life.

But the others (i.e. Zacharias, John the Baptist’s dad) would have come in for a week at a time.

According to the instructions God gave to David as he was getting Solomon set up to build the first temple, the priests and the Levites were divided into 24 courses within their assigned duty. The length of each service was 7 days (1 Chronicles 9:25), beginning and ending on the Sabbath (2 Chronicles 23:8). These rotations occurred twice a year.

In addition, all the priests served for 3 extra weeks during the year during special feasts.(Deuteronomy 16:16).
                                                                                     Sukkot Celebration (Kotel2014sukkot Wikimedia)

Can you imagine scheduling all this? At any given time there were as many as 1,300 Levites in the temple complex. This is gatekeepers, priests, musicians, cooks, priests’ assistants and more.

In Jeremiah 20:1 Pashur is named the Chief Governor of the House of the LORD. I imagine his job description included the scheduling.

It’s been quite some time since I was in charge of making out schedules, and my (less than 15) people served in the same capacity week after week. I can’t even begin to fathom how to keep all those people straight!

In Ezekiel’s Song, I played around with this behind-the-scenes workings of the Temple. The Bible didn’t mention what capacity Ezekiel served in at the temple, but the later on in Babylon, the Lord names him a Gatekeeper for the people of Israel (and how often does the Lord prepare us for the bigger jobs, by training us in the day-to-day work? AmIright?).

I imagined that Ezekiel was a common fixture around the temple. I even have him serving as aide to the governor of the temple, scheduling and making sure everyone is in their place at the right time.
                                                     Solomon's Stables Under the Temple Platform (wikimedia)

Another aspect would be the inconsistency of the workers. If everyone rotated every seven days, how did you know who to count on? What about musicians? Can you even have a semblance of normal if you are constantly training new people? When would you even rehearse?
Here's an interesting tidbit about musicians and temple service: 1 Chronicles 9:33 says the musicians were free from other duties. Can’t you just see the musicians milking that? “I don’t have to do any chores. I’m a musician.” 

What part of serving in the temple was new to you? Would you be in charge of organizing the sheer volume of the workers that showed up on any given day?

A prophet's heart broken, a woman's joy gone. What does Yahweh have planned for His people?
On the brink of Jerusalem's demise, devoted priest, Ezekiel, sees the insincerity of Judah's worship. Despite his efforts to call the people back to true worship of Yahweh, priests, artisans, valiant warriors, and royals are exiled to Babylon. When God gives him messages of continued judgment for the people in his homeland, his heart breaks. How can he minister to the people from so far away?
The presence of the Lord is tangible when Shiriel sings in the temple, and her voice prepares the hearts of many to worship. When she is exiled to Babylon, her faith is shaken. Does the Lord's presence extend beyond Jerusalem and His holy temple?
Ezekiel is struck mute and paralyzed as he begins his prophetic ministry, and Shiriel devises a plan to get the Lord's message back to the unfaithful people of Judah. Shiriel struggles with discontentment as serving the Lord looks nothing like she'd imagined. Can she provide for her family and carry out her husband's ministry when her joy is gone, and her own dreams are placed on hold?        


  1. Thank you for posting today! Are you new to the blog? If so, welcome! If not, welcome back, lol! I was amazed that there were so many people involved in temple activities. Somehow I thought it was a small circle of exclusive people. Now I know better.

    1. Hi Connie! Yep, newbie here! Glad to be a part of such a fantastic community! It's crazy to think about how many people it took to staff the temple!!

  2. Wow, Naomi, just reading about it gives me a headache. I can't imagine being the organizer. I never thought about there having to be an organizer. I guess I thought everyone knew what to do and when through osmosis. Great post!

    1. Hi Michelle! I serve on the audio-visual team at church. I see how much my people practice-- and they are the same week to week. I wonder when temple musicians got the chance to practice if they were rotating so frequently?