2 Chronicles 4
The detailed descriptions of the furnishings of Solomon’s temple remind me once again that this was written not at the time these items were crafted, but nearly five hundred years later when Israel was returning from exile for the express purpose of rebuilding the temple at the direction of the Emperor Cyrus the Great.
This was intended to serve as an instruction manual for what the Israelites should aspire to reconstruct, as well as a source of nationalistic and ethnic pride in their history. This is precisely the reason the Babylonians completely destroyed Solomon’s temple, and why conquering armies frequently destroy monuments in an effort to break the pride and unity of the people they are conquering.
Conquerors would often, also, construct their own monuments to intimidate and remind the conquered who the victors were, to keep them in their place and discourage them from seeking justice.
Ezra was focusing again on the commonalities that united them, rather than the struggles that divided. He didn’t bring up how Solomon had taxed the people exorbitantly to construct the Temple. He didn’t remind them of how the kings following Solomon had fallen further and further into idolatry and sin, or how they had divided the kingdom and fought against their own brothers, but instead focused on building the unity of his people.
Perhaps I’ve just been blind and ignorant to it, but I’ve never known a time in our country which was as polarized as it is today. With our 24-hour news cycle, very day brings a new story of injustice and division, particularly along racial lines, but sometimes between religious, gender, or lifestyles. Tearing away the history as written by the victors to learn the difficult realities of our nation is painful, but ignoring it is unacceptable.
In order to rebuild a nation, we can’t just gloss over the brokenness of our history. We can’t start building on a foundation littered with the rubble of five hundred years of oppression—interesting that the timeframe is similar to that of the Israelites’ return. We have to recognize the damage that has been done, acknowledge the moral failures of our past, and present, and how they are still impacting lives that matter today. And we must work with intentionality to create the nation our forefathers spoke of when they said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”