When we consider what the Bible has to say about the construction and appearance of Solomon’s temple, we can conclude only that it was one of the most majestic structures ever constructed. Just consider today’s passage.
First, there is the size of the temple. Translated into today’s figures, the ancient measurements of the structure in 2 Chronicles 3:3–4, 8 give us a temple that measured ninety feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high. This temple was divided into the Holy Place—a large hall measuring sixty feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high—where the priests worshiped daily, and the Most Holy Place, which only the high priest entered once a year on the Day of Atonement. The Most Holy Place was a smaller room measuring thirty feet long, thirty feet wide, and forty-five feet high. Surrounding the temple was a portico with many storage areas (1 Chron. 28:11–12).
Solomon covered the walls of the temple with gold (2 Chron. 3:4–9), which conveyed royalty and majesty and also reflected light throughout the sanctuary to increase illumination. He had cherubim—angelic beings—carved on the walls, and in the Most Holy Place he placed two large golden cherubim who together had a thirty-foot wingspan (vv. 7, 10–13). This was in addition to the cherubim that were already on the lid of the ark (Ex. 26:34). Overall, the atmosphere was one of a royal heavenly palace where people worshiped God alongside the angels. First Chronicles 29:1, 19 even refers to the temple as a palace. In the temple, the Ruler of the universe would make His home, near the palace of the earthly Davidic king.
More cherubim were sewn into the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, just as in the tabernacle (2 Chron. 3:14; see Ex. 26:31–33). This was a reminder of the cherubim who guarded the entrance to the temple-garden after Adam and Eve sinned (Gen. 3:24). Sinners could not go back into the garden and enjoy God’s presence until atonement was made, as is seen in the yearly Day of Atonement when the high priest, representing the Lord’s people, could go into the Most Holy Place with the blood of the sacrifice (Lev. 16). In line with this, the temple was built on Mount Moriah, the place where Abraham offered Isaac, prefiguring the final atonement of Christ that would open up the way into God’s heavenly temple for all His people, not just for the earthly high priest (Gen. 22:1–19; Heb. 10:19–25).
Matthew Henry points to the carved cherubim in today’s passage, encouraging us with the hope that “the thought that we are worshiping him before whom the angels cover their faces will help to inspire us with reverence in all our approaches to God.” We should approach God in worship with reverence and awe, as the angels do. God is worthy of such worship in both our private and corporate praise.