2 Chronicles 7:12ff—Does God dwell in a chosen temple?
Problem: God told Solomon, “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice” (v. 12), that “My name may be there forever” (v. 16). Yet, even Solomon in his dedicatory prayer acknowledged that God could not dwell in His temple, saying, “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). Other Scriptures likewise affirm that God does not “dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24; cf. Isa. 66:1).
Solution: It should be noted, first of all, that God did not actually promise Solomon that He would “dwell” in this temple. He only said He chose it as a “house of sacrifice” (2 Chron. 7:12), to which He would attach His “name” (v. 16).
Further, when the Bible speaks of God being “in” something, it does not mean that His infinite nature can be “contained” (1 Kings 8:27) by it, but simply that He is there in a special sense to bless it or manifest Himself to His people. Usually, this took the form of a theophany (Isa. 6:1), or shekinah cloud of glory (Ex. 40:34). But, there is no way that the transcendent God of Scripture can be encompassed by the walls of any human building (cf. Isa. 40:21–22).
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.