Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 3

A great house

Hebrews 3:3-4

These verses are not about the kind of houses where families usually live. They are about something that is much more impressive.

Think about a palace. The king lives there with his family, of course. But the palace includes rooms and buildings where many other people live, also. So, the king’s brothers and his other relatives may have their homes there. Important officials may have to live, with their families, in the palace. And many of the king’s servants also have to live there. The most important servants serve the king himself. But there are guards, and there are people who cook. There are servants who clean the palace. And there are servants who carry things. There have to be servants in order to carry out every kind of task.

A king establishes a house like that because he wants his family to rule for a long time. If they do, people in future centuries will say, ‘This is the house of David’ (Isaiah 7:13). They might mean the building, but they probably mean the family. The building becomes merely the evidence of the family’s greatness. And the family’s greatness gives honour to the person who originally established their ‘house’. In the example above, people were still giving honour to David centuries after his death.

It was not enough for King David just to establish his own royal house. He also wanted to establish a house for God (2 Samuel 7:2). In fact, it was David’s son, Solomon, who actually built it. It was called the temple. Its purpose was to give God honour, so that in future centuries, people would continue to respect God in Israel.

The temple was like a palace. (In fact, ‘palace’ and ‘temple’ are the same word in the language called Hebrew.) The most sacred building was in the centre. Many other buildings for the priests surrounded it. People lived in those buildings (2 Kings 11:3) – but especially, the priests. A large area of land was inside the temple’s outer walls.

But Solomon did not really establish the house of God, because it already existed. Centuries before, Moses had established a tent for the same purpose. It was called the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:2). So really, Solomon just made a new building for God’s house. And he moved the sacred objects that already existed into it.

However, even Moses did not really establish God’s house. In the end, it is God himself who establishes all things. What Moses and Solomon made were copies of the reality. The real house of God is in heaven (Hebrews 9:22-23). And so the honour goes to God alone.

That does not mean that the tabernacle or the temple were without purpose. We cannot yet see heaven. But by means of the tabernacle and the temple, God shows us what his house is like. He provided copies so that we can understand the reality.

Next part: Moses, God’s servant (Hebrews 3:5)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.