This is the second installment of the series, Blogging Beale, working through G.K. Beale’s work, The Temple and the Church’s Mission. From now on, the posts will be in Q&A format, summarizing Beale’s arguments.
Chapter 2: The Cosmic Symbolism of Temples in the Old Testament
Why do pagan temples resemble Israel’s temples?
It is due, in part, to a refracted and marred understanding of the true conception of the temple that was present from the very beginning of human history. In other words, common grace. People have a vague conception of the truth which is twisted and distorted by sin. Also, Israel shared a common culture with the pagans, and they filled common ideas and structure with theological significance.
What is the OT’s view of Israel’s earthly temple as related to the heavenly, or cosmic, temple?
They saw the earthly template reflecting the cosmic temple. The OT temple was a microcosm of the entire heaven and earth. See texts: Psalm 78:69. Furthermore, the tabernacle was patterned after the “heavenly” temple (Exodus 25:9).
What is the general symbolism of Israel’s temple?
- Outer court=habitable world (i.e. earth)
- Holy Place=visible heavens and light sources (i.e. sky)
- Holy of Holies=Invisible dimension of the cosmos where God dwells (i.e. “heaven”).
What evidence suggests the Outer Court represents the earth?
The wash-basin in the outer court is called the “sea” (1 Kings 7:23-26), and the altar in the temple courtyard is called the “bosom of the earth” (Ezekiel 43:14). Furthermore, twelve bulls encircled the sea and lily blossom decorated the brim calling to mind “earthly” images. Plus, the twelve bulls were divided into four groups of three, indicating the four points on a compass. Plus, all Israelites (representing humanity) could enter at large.
What evidence suggests the Holy Place represented the sky?
Seven lamp stands may be associated with the seven light-sources visible to the naked eye (5 planets, sun, and moon). Genesis 1 uses the word “lights” for these things, when in the rest of the Torah it is used ten times all in reference to the lamp stands. Revelation also associates lamps stands with stars (1:20).
What evidence suggests the Holy of Holies represented God’s dwelling place in heaven?
Just as cherubim “guard” God’s throne (Revelation 4:7-9), there were sculpted cherubim around the ark of the covenant (1 Kings 6:23-28) and cherubim loves into the veil (cf. 2 Sam. 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15). No human could enter into the Holy of Holies and see God’s glory. Only the high priest could enter in once a year with a cloud of inches so thick that he could not see God’s glorious appearance (Leviticus 16:13). The cloud could easily represent the visible heavens which point to the invisible realm. The ark was God’s “footstool” of the heavenly throne (1 Chronicles 28:8; Psalm. 99:5; 132:7-8; Isaiah 66:1). The ark is part of God’s heavenly throne room and appropriately, the space above the ark is empty.
How does the temple symbolize both the visible and invisible heavens?
The “cloud” filled Israel’s temple when it was completed, pointing to the invisible heaven (see above question) (1 Kings 8:10-13; 2 Chronicles 5:13-6:2). The “cloud” was like a “bridge” between the visible and invisible heavens, for some times it’s used to mean the visible heavens (Job 26:8-9) and at other times God’s glory is likened to a cloud (Ezekiel 1:4, 28). The earliest forms of the temple (i.e. the tabernacle) was also associated with clouds as God met Israel at Sinai (Exodus 16:10).
Temple is built as an “lofty” house which refers to both visible and invisible heavens (Habakkuk 3:11; Isaiah 63:15). The “winged” creatures around the ark also give upper-atmospheric connections (1 Kings 8:6-7). The veil was made of different colors which resembled the sky (blue, purple, and red): Red represented lightning and sun. Blue and purple represented the sky. The screen of the “gate of the court” was also “blue, purple, and scarlet” (Exodus 26:36; 27:16; 36:37; 38:18). Even the “loops” of the edge of the curtains were be blue and the priests were to cover the tabernacle with “blue” when they transported it (Numbers 4:5-13).