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Background

NOTE: All English translation is from NASB.

In 1 Kg 10, the phrase בֵּ֖ית יַ֥עַר הַלְּבָנֹֽון ("in the house of the forest of Lebanon," v.17) and בֵּֽית־יַ֥עַר הַלְּבָנֹ֖ון ("of the house of the forest of Lebanon," v.21) occurs. In v.17 it is referring to where the gold shields were placed, and in v.21 it is referring to the fact that "all the vessels" of the house were made of gold.

Question

The question is to what "house" does this phrase "of the forest of Lebanon" refer?

  1. The Temple of the LORD, which construction included "cedars of Lebanon" (1 Kg 5:6), the "timber of cedar" given for the work (1 Kg 5:10), probably shipped from Lebanon by workers Solomon sent to get it (1 Kg 5:14), and finally prepped (1 Kg 5:18) for inclusion into the Temple (1 Kg 6:9-10, 15-16, 18, 20), which at multiple points is given the designation of a "house" as well (I believe 35 times in chapter 6 it is so designated). Also note that this house is again referred to in the context of the following three (1 Kg 7:12, 51).
  2. Solomon's Royal Palace, where in 1 Kg 7:2 it notes וַיִּ֜בֶן אֶת־בֵּ֣ית ׀ יַ֣עַר הַלְּבָנֹ֗ון ("he built the house of the forest of Lebanon"), referring to his own house as noted in v.1, but described as the place in which his throne was located (v.7), in either case, much cedar was a part of it (vv.2-3, 7).
  3. Solomon's Residence, where in 1 Kg 7:8a it states "his house where he was to live ... was of the same workmanship," i.e. the same workmanship as that for the hall of pillars and thrones—the palace just described in v.1-7 it would seem, and thus of the same material, cedar (v.8a seems to imply the building he lived in was a separate "house" from the "house" described in v.1-7).
  4. Pharoah's Daughter's house, where in 1 Kg 7:8b it states "He also made a house like this hall for Pharaoh’s daughter," which means it, too, would be made of cedar.

So legitimately any of the four could carry the designation "house of the forest of Lebanon." Only the palace has that exact phrase associated to it, but there in 1 Kg 7:2 it is merely descriptive, and indicating it came from the same source as the Temple wood.

A couple of other points that do not fully help clarify:

  1. The gold shields are noted in 1 Kg 10:14-17, which is immediately followed by a reference to the construction of the "throne" area (v.18-20), but the transition is such that the two need not be referencing the same location, but rather some of the notable uses of all the gold.
  2. The gold vessels "of the house of the forest of Lebanon" are specifically isolated from "the drinking vessels" of Solomon, which one would assume were in his "residence" and/or his "palace." Why then the isolation of discussing the one as distinct from the others—i.e. if the drinking vessels are associated to the palace and/or residence, does "vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon" intend to refer to the other of the two buildings, or the Temple, or Pharoah's daughter's house,or the same building in which the drinking vessels are (them being distinguished for other reasons)?.

Preliminary View

My understanding has previously been Solomon's palace (which, until reading more carefully, I would have also believed to be one and the same with his residence). Yet in more carefully reading, I have to at least question if that is correct, primarily wondering if it is another way of referring to the house of the LORD (which was so very much more the focus of construction and preparation in chapters 5-7), but if so, why this designation then?

Perhaps additional Scripture can help determine for sure what "house" is being referred to as "the house of the forest of Lebanon." Historical understanding of the phrasing appreciated as well, especially if others have questioned this.

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  • Reference 1 Kings 14:26-27, would seem to support the option of Solomon's palace. If they are the same shields.
    – Joshua
    Jun 9 '15 at 14:29
  • @JoshuaBigbee: That sounds like a good base passage to answer the question, though whether (2) or (3) may still need addressing.
    – ScottS
    Jun 9 '15 at 14:42
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1 Kings 7:1-7 seems to come down in favor of (2), and v.8 to argue against (3). The reference to shields bears out the IVP Bible Background Commentary - O T's comment that, "Like other palace complexes in the ANE (such as those at Mari, Babylon and Susa), Solomon's ...palace itself was larger than the temple. It served as an administrative complex as well as a hall of justice and an armory." (Comment on 1 Ki 7:1-12). A point borne out by Isaiah 22:8, "the weapons in the House of the Forest [bayit ya'ar]", in the context of actual threat of war from the Assyrian army. The ceremonial wine-cup may be singled out from other vessels in 1 Kings 10:21 much as we would single out the fine porcelain tea set from other porcelain crockery at home...the vessel is important for the choice beverage and the personal attachment/value.

The reference to the "house of the forest of Lebanon" in 1 Kg 10:17 and 21 could apply to any one of the four 'houses' mentioned in 1 Kg 6:37 - 7:8, as the OP carefully noted: the house of the LORD, Solomon's palace, Solomon's residence, the house of Pharaoh's daughter. Cedar of Lebanon figured prominently in all four (1 Kg 5:5-6, 7:2, 7:8a, 8b).

The author/compiler of 1 Kings is recognizably drawing an ironic contrast between the house of the LORD and Solomon's "own house" in the time taken for building - 7 years (1 Kg 6:37-38) vs 13 (7:1). [Considering that verse and chapter divisions are a later addition, this is one of the places where the boundary line has not fallen in pleasant places.] But the contrast is extended to the dimensions of the building: the house of LORD (1 Kg 6:2) was a quarter the floor area of the house of the the forest of Lebanon (7:2), some 1200 sq cubits vs 5000 sq cubits. This immediately sets the house of the forest of Lebanon apart from the house of the LORD, effectively ruling out option (1) in the OP.

Both 1 Kg 10:17-18 and 14:26-17 mention the gold shields placed in the house of the forest, replaced in Rehoboam's time by bronze shields (14:27, cp.Is 22:8), all of which point to its ceremonial importance as the royal palace-cum-armory. 1 Kg 10:18-20 describes not the throne 'area' but the "great throne of ivory" (v.18) that consisted not just of the seat but of seat-cum-steps with ivory lions all round, all in one great composite structure. Solomon's drinking vessels (probably wine goblets) of gold are singled out from other gold vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon (v.21), not necessarily isolated because of a different location, but more plausibly because the wine cup was the Eastern king's prized possession, much like his signet ring or sword.

The first use of 'house' in 7:1 seems to be a synecdoche, where part stands for the whole (Now Solomon was building his own house thirteen years); then the second use of the word (...and he finished all his house) refers to the entire 'house' complex, described in verses 2 to 8: the palace, the residence, the queen's quarters. In fact, all four 'houses' were in the same area and within walking distance of each other.

Reading 1 Kg 7:2-7, the thoughtful reader cannot miss the subtle extension of irony by the author throughout the passage, portraying the house of the Forest of Lebanon as parodying the three part layout of the Temple, but on a grander scale: the hall of pillars (or the colonnade as NIV has it) - corresponding to the porch, the house of the forest itself - the 'holy place', and the throne room or hall of judgment - the 'holy of holies'. He caps it all by pointedly referring to the queen's palace as the house for Pharaoh's daughter, whom Solomon had married (1 Kg 7:8b). This house would be adjacent to Solomon's own house (v.8a). It is clear from vv. 7,8 that both of these had cedar paneling, but that alone is insufficient to establish them as winning candidates for 'house of the forest of Lebanon'. In fact, merely having cedar paneling, but not the profusion of cedar pillars (7:2,3) argues against the possibility of (3) or (4) in the OP being called the house of the forest of Lebanon.

Does that name really imply (as the OP seems to have understood it) that it arose from the source of the cedar - the forest of Lebanon? It is much more implied in the description of its grandeur and the focus on its pillars made of cedar, the number of pillars and how many rows there were (v.2,3) that the name is rather a descriptor of the cedar-pillared house itself as Solomon's own forest of Lebanon. Indeed, Is 22:8, a bit later on, calls it simply the 'house of the forest', which supports this. The name wouldn't apply so well even to the house of the LORD, and certainly not options (3) and (4) in the OP, which are glossed over in description by the author of 1 Kings.

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  • 1
    I think this answer has great potential. I would like to see you address, however, a few more points. First, why do you feel v.8 argues against (3), as I used v.8 as the reason for posing the (3) as possible, since the residence was "of the same workmanship," which implies the same material. Second, I would like some argument for why not (1), as really I lean toward it being either (1) or (2). Third, I do think the comment relating 1 Kg 14:26-27 helps support the palace, so consider that as well.
    – ScottS
    Oct 21 '15 at 16:05
  • I have edited the answer to address these issues. Thanks. Oct 22 '15 at 17:56
  • Thank you. You make some good points, particularly the armory argument and your final paragraph focusing on the pillars makes logical sense.
    – ScottS
    Oct 23 '15 at 0:14

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