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Psalm 5:7 NASB

But as for me, by Your abundant graciousness I will enter Your house, At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.

I'm wondering if the temple was a physical location that David was talking about or some metaphorical location and what the significance is of bowing in reverence there.

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It is true that the first temple in Jerusalem was not built at the time of David; his son Solomon used the plans and materials prepared by his father to build the first temple in Jerusalem. David, however, had faith that such a temple would be built.

Therefore, all of the Psalms credited to him were written before that construction even began, but that in no way detracts from the fact that David knew where it would be located.

Solomon (interestingly) said in his prayer of dedication that when the people went to war, or were exiled, they would turn towards the temple to pray in its direction (1 Kings 8:44 & 38). And this is where different translations of Psalm 5:7 link in. The NIV, A.V., RSV, YLT (and others) do not say 'at' your holy temple, but 'bow toward' your holy temple. A significant difference!

This means that both Solomon and David had something in mind in addition to being in the temple in Jerusalem. David knew he would never be inside that building, but he knew it would be built, and he knew where, in the earthly city of Jerusalem it would be located. Solomon witnessed the priests carrying the Ark of the covenant into the Most Holy place. When they withdrew, the glorious cloud so filled the temple that all sacrifices had to cease, and Solomon praised God and dedicated the temple. From then on, all God's people knew where to go to worship at the temple, and in what direction to kneel and pray when away from Jerusalem.

Although this answer seems to deal mainly with where the temple was, it is necessary to establish that first, in order to say it was a literal, physical building; David was not writing Psalm 5 in any metaphorical sense. The significance of 'bowing' is to convey an act of prayerful worship toward the one true God to whom that literal temple was dedicated. That is exemplified by Daniel, when taken as an exile to Babylon much later on, praying at his open house window three times a day, towards Jerusalem (in the direction of Jerusalem). He had in mind where the temple used to be, and his prayers were directed to the God of Israel, signified by what used to be the Jerusalem temple (Daniel 6:10).

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  • Very clear and helpful. Thank you for your response.
    – Jason_
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 7:32
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First, we should address whether this was actually a psalm written by David or is a song "of David," meaning inspired by him or attributed to him. David did not enter the Temple, so if this was written by him, it must have been before God told him that the temple was not his to build.

Either way, the answer is that the psalmist is speaking of the physical Temple of Jerusalem. Many of these psalms, in fact, were performed as part of the Temple's liturgy. However, this does not mean that the psalm cannot also be interpreted allegorically, as referring to a temple in the spiritual world or an inner sanctuary in one's psyche. It that case bowing represents either one's spiritual body actually bowing, or a person adopting a spiritual posture of complete humility in front of God.

I will also note that "the Temple" can refer to the entire temple complex, not only the area where only priests were allowed. Thus the psalm could be sung or recited by the congregation as well as by priests or the psalmist himself. Contemporary Jewish tradition holds that it was written to be sung by all Israel. However, the original meaning is more straightforward: the psalmist expresses his intention to enter the temple and bow down before God in prayer.

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  • Thanks for the response. It was very informative!
    – Jason_
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 7:35
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Technically, no one but the priest could physically enter the earthly temple. Yet the function of the priest was to represent the people before God, whereas a prophet represented God to the people. And those earthly priests served “the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Heb 8:5) Of special note is the garb of the high priest who bore the names of the children of Israel on His breastplate (Ex 28:29,29). In this way the children of Israel entered the sanctuary in and through the priest.

It’s interesting to note that the first apartment of the sanctuary where the candle stick, shew bread and alter were located was called the “tabernacle of the congregation” or “tabernacle of meeting”, yet the people of the congregation could not physically enter there (Ex 27:21; 28:43). So again, the tabernacle is “a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things (Heb 10: “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;” (Heb 9:11).

“Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24).

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” Hebrews 12-22-24). “For here we have no continuing city [old Jerusalem], but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Heb 13:14,15)

So it appears that David, along with Solomon and doubtless many more, understood that these things were mere shadows of a far greater reality. “But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built! (2 Chr 6:18).

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    People other than priests were allow to enter the Temple's various courtyards, and it is in that sense that the term is often used, Luke 2:35-37 speaks of Anna as never leaving the Temple, even though as a woman she would be relegated to one of the outer courts. Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 7:05
  • Yes Dan, you are correct in adding that clarification. Thanks, I should have made it more clear that people could enter the courtyard of the Temple. I was myopically focused on the typology of the Temple as representative of the Messiah who is Himself the tabernacle of the congregation.
    – Tishbite
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 6:37

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