1 Kings 3:2
Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built to the name of the LORD, until those days.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) In high places.—The historian, writing from the point of view of his own time, when, after the solemn consecration of the Temple, the worship at “the high places,” which form natural sanctuaries, was forbidden, explains that “because there was no house built unto the name of the Lord,” the people, and Solomon himself, sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. It is clear that these high places were of two kinds—places of sacrifice to false gods, and unauthorised sanctuaries of the Lord, probably associating His worship with visible representations of Deity. The former class were, of course, absolute abominations, like the high places of the Canaanite races, so sternly denounced in Deuteronomy 12:2-3. The prohibition of the other class of high places—constantly disobeyed by some even of the better kings—appears to have had two distinct objects—(a) to guard against all local corruptions of God’s service, and all idolatry, worshipping Him (as at Bethel) under visible forms; (b) to prevent the breach of national unity, by the congregation of the separate tribes round local sanctuaries. But besides these objects, it served (c), as a very remarkable spiritual education for the worship of the invisible God, without the aid of local and visible emblems of His presence, in accordance with the higher prophetic teaching, and preparatory for the perfect spirituality of the future. It is, indeed, hardly to be conceived that there should not have been before the Captivity some places of non-sacrificial worship, in some degree like the synagogues of the period after the exile, although not as yet developed into a fully organised system. Unless we refer Psalm 74:8 to the Maccabæan times, it must be supposed to describe the Chaldæan invasion, as destroying not only the Temple, but also “all the houses of God”—properly “assemblies,” and in our Bible version actually translated “synagogues “—“in the land.” But these places of prayer and praise and instruction would be different in their whole idea from the “high places” rivalling the Temple. Up to this time it is clear that, even under Samuel and David, sacrificial worship elsewhere than in the Tabernacle was used without scruple, though certainly alien from the spirit of the Mosaic Law as to the supreme sacredness of the “place which God should choose to place his name there.” (See, for example, 1Samuel 7:10; 1Samuel 13:9; 1Samuel 14:35; 1Samuel 16:5; 1Chronicles 21:26.) After the solemn consecration of the Temple, the circumstances and the character of such worship were altogether changed.

1 Kings 3:2. Only the people sacrificed in high places — Which were groves, or other convenient places upon hills. In such places the patriarchs had been wont to offer up their worship, and sacrifices to God; and from them this custom was derived both to the Gentiles and the Jews; and in them the Gentiles sacrificed to idols, and the Hebrews to the true God. But this custom was expressly forbidden by God to his people, except in some extraordinary cases, and they were commanded to offer their sacrifices and other oblations only in the place which the Lord should choose, and where his tabernacle, altar, and ark should be, Leviticus 17:3-5; Deuteronomy 12:10-14. It is, therefore, here mentioned as an exception to Solomon’s integrity and glory, and the happiness of his reign, and as a blemish to his government, that he permitted and practised what was thus so expressly forbidden. Possibly he permitted it because he thought it better to allow of an error in a circumstance, than occasion a neglect of God’s worship altogether, which he apprehended would follow upon a severe prohibition of that practice. For the people’s hearts were generally and constantly set upon these high places, as appears from the following history; and they were not willing to submit to the trouble and charge which the bringing their sacrifices to one place would cause, nor, indeed, would they yield to it until the temple was built: and, as that was speedily to be done, Solomon seems to have thought it more advisable to delay enforcing obedience to God’s law in this point for the present, than by force to drive them to it. These, however, and all other prudential considerations, ought to have given place to the will and wisdom of God. Because there was no house built to the name of the Lord — For his service, and to the honour, and praise, and glory of his name; that is, of his majesty, and all his perfections, which were to be adored and manifested there. But this reason for their sacrificing in high places was not sufficient; because there was a tabernacle, to which they were as much confined as they were afterward to the temple.3:1-4 He that loved the Lord, should, for his sake, have fixed his love upon one of the Lord's people. Solomon was a wise man, a rich man, a great man; yet the brightest praise of him, is that which is the character of all the saints, even the poorest, He loved the Lord. Where God sows plentifully, he expects to reap accordingly; and those that truly love God and his worship, will not grudge the expenses of their religion. We must never think that wasted which is laid out in the service of God.The word "only" introduces a contrast. The writer means to say that there was one exception to the flourishing condition of things which he has been describing, namely, that "the people sacrificed in high-places." (Compare the next verse.) The Law did not forbid "high-places" directly, but only by implication. It required the utter destruction of all the high-places which had been polluted by idolatrous rites Deuteronomy 12:2; and the injunction to offer sacrifices nowhere except at the door of the tabernacle Leviticus 17:3-5 was an indirect prohibition of them, or, at least, of the use which the Israelites made of them; but there was some real reason to question whether this was a command intended to come into force until the "place" was chosen "where the Lord would cause His name to dwell." (See Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:14.) The result was that high-places were used for the worship of Yahweh, from the time of the Judges downward Judges 6:25; Judges 13:16; 1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 13:9; 1 Samuel 14:35; 1 Samuel 16:5; 1 Chronicles 21:26, with an entire unconsciousness of guilt on the part of those who used them. And God so far overlooked this ignorance that He accepted the worship thus offered Him, as appears from the vision vouchsafed to Solomon on this occasion. There were two reasons for the prohibition of high-places; first, the danger of the old idolatry creeping back if the old localities were retained for worship; and, secondly, the danger to the unity of the nation if there should be more than one legitimate religious center. The existence of the worship at high places did, in fact, facilitate the division of the kingdom. 1Ki 3:2-5. High Places Being in Use, He Sacrifices at Gibeon. Only: this particle is used here and 1 Kings 3:3, as an exception to Solomon’s integrity and glory, and as his infirmity, and a blemish to his government, that he himself both permitted and practised this which was expressly forbidden, Leviticus 17:3,4 Deu 12:13,14, except in some extraordinary cases. Possibly he permitted it because he thought it better to allow an error in a circumstance, than to occasion a neglect of the substance of God’s worship, which he apprehended would follow upon a severe prohibition of that practice, because the people’s hearts were generally and constantly set upon these high places, as appears from all the following history; and they were not willing to submit to so much trouble and charge as the bringing of all their sacrifices to one place would cause; nor would yield to it until the temple was built, which he knew would easily incline and oblige them to it; and that being speedily to be done, he might think it more advisable rather to delay the execution of that law of God for an approaching season, wherein he doubted not they would be sweetly and freely drawn to it, than at present to drive them to it by force; although these and all other prudential considerations should have given place to the will and wisdom of God.

In high places; which were groves, or other convenient places upon hills, in which the patriarchs used to offer up their worship and sacrifices to God; and from them this custom was derived both to the Gentiles and the Jews; and in them the Gentiles sacrificed to idols, Jeremiah 7:31 Ezekiel 6:3,4 Ho 10:8, the Hebrews to the true God.

Because there was no house; which reason was not sufficient, for there was a tabernacle, to which they were as much confined as to the temple, Deu 12, &c.

Unto the name of the Lord; either,

1. To the Lord; the name of the Lord being oft put for the Lord himself, as Deu 28:58 Job 1:21 Psalm 7:17 116:13 135:1. Or,

2. To the honour, and praise, and service of God; to the glory of his name, i.e. of his majesty, and all his perfections, which shall be adored and manifested there. Only the people sacrificed in high places,.... On the tops of their houses, on hills and mountains, and particularly at the high place in Gibeon, where the tabernacle was:

because there was no house built unto the name of the Lord until those days; to which they were obliged to repair as afterwards, and there offer their sacrifices, as the Lord had commanded, Deuteronomy 12:5.

Only the people sacrificed in {b} high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.

(b) Where altars were appointed before the temple was built, to offer to the Lord.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. Only the people sacrificed] The first word here seems to force us to connect this verse with the last clause of the previous chapter. The kingdom was established and all was well in temporal matters, but there was still a part of the Divine appointment not duly observed. There were high places in considerable numbers on which the people offered sacrifices. It was ordained (Deuteronomy 12:13-14) that this should not be so. “Offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest, but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes.’ But as yet this one place had not been fixed. So the previous ordinance of Exodus (1 Kings 20:24) intended for an unsettled time was still adhered to. God had there said ‘In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee and I will bless thee.’ An altar of earth was to be erected, and burnt offerings and peace offerings brought thither. This early ordinance was doubtless meant to be superseded as soon as possible after the settlement in Canaan, but events happened which delayed the choice of one place for all offerings, and so we find that God accepts the sacrifice of Gideon at Ophrah (Jdg 6:23), of Manoah at Zorah (Jdg 13:19), while Samuel (1 Samuel 9:12) offers sacrifice at the high place in the land of Zuph, and many other instances of the worship in the high places are to be found in the books of Samuel, and there is no expression anywhere of God’s disapproval. As soon as we enter on the books of the Kings we find that the writer has another standpoint, and counts it an evil that the high places still remain. Hence the language of this verse.

sacrificed] It is not possible to express the exact force in good English of the participle used both here and in the next verse. It implies the continuance of this custom, both with king and people, of worshipping on the high places. The Hebrew requires both here and in the following verse ‘in the high places.’ They were well-known seats of worship.

unto the name of the Lord] The phrase in the Pentateuch is that God ‘chooses to place His name’ where He desires to be worshipped. Cf. Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 16:2; Deuteronomy 16:6; Deuteronomy 16:11; &c. Hence ‘Name’ came to be synonymous with ‘worship’; nomen gained the sense of numen.Verse 2. - Only [The word perhaps signifies "that there was one exception to the flourishing condition of things which the writer has been describing" (Rawlinson), though the people are nowhere blamed for sacrificing on the high places, and Solomon's sacrifice at "the great high place "was full of blessing. The idea rather is that just as he was obliged to bring his Egyptian wife into the city of David, because his palace was not yet finished, so the people were compelled to sacrifice on the high places, because the temple was not yet built (Keil), and "the place" where God would put His name had only just been chosen (1 Chronicles 22:1)] the people sacrificed [Heb. were sacrificing, i.e., habitually, constantly] in high places [All nations have chosen hill tops for acts of worship, perhaps as being nearer heaven. "Even Abraham built an altar to the Lord on a mountain near Bethel (Genesis 12:7, 8; cf. 22:2, 9; 31:54)." And the use of high places for this purpose was not distinctly condemned in the Law. It is true the Hebrews were commanded to have but one place of sacrifice (Leviticus 17:9; Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 13, 26, 27; cf. Joshua 22:29), and this no doubt was, if not an indirect prohibition, a discouragement of such sanctuaries. It has been held, however, that this command was purely prospective, and it is certainly remarkable that even when the Israelites were settled in the promised land, and the tabernacle was set up (Joshua 18:1), altars were constantly built and sacrifices offered on high places, and sometimes, as in the case of Gideon (Judges 6:26), and Manoah (Judges 13:19, 20), by express Divine command. Later on we find Samuel (1 Samuel 7:9, 10; 1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 16:5), Saul (1 Samuel 13:9; 14:35), David (1 Chronicles 21:26), Solomon and Elijah (1 Kings 18:30), offering sacrifices in various places, which they could not possibly have done had it seemed to them that this was condemned beforehand by the Law. It is highly probable, therefore, that though the contemporaries of Joshua took a different view (as Joshua 22:15-31 proves), the men of a later age excused themselves on the ground stated in the text, that "there was no house built unto the name of the Lord." It has been held by some that "had they not sacrificed and burnt incense on high places, they could not have sacrificed or burnt incense at all" (Bp. Horsley); but this seems to overlook the fact that there was one place provided for sacrifices - the door of the tabernacle — and that for some reason or other they sacrificed elsewhere. And the reason, no doubt, was the one assigned by the historian. It should be added that this term "high place" (בָּמָה) came to be used of all places of worship, not only on heights, but even those in valleys (2 Kings 17:9; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 32:35). The Bamah sometimes consisted of an altar only, but as a rule, there was a shrine or sanctuary, erected hard by (1 Kings 13:32; 2 Kings 17:29; 2 Kings 23:19), the Beth-Bamah, for which the word Bamah is sometimes loosely employed (1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 21:3)], because there was no house built unto the name of the Lord until those days. When this was reported to Solomon, he sent for Shimei and charged him with the breach of his command: "Did I not swear to thee by Jehovah, and testify to thee, etc.? Why hast thou not kept the oath of Jehovah (the oath sworn by Jehovah)...?"
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