God did not want a temple. He was quite happy in a tent.

God explicitly told Moses to build a tabernacle (Ex 25:8-9). He gave very precise instructions about the materials it was to be built from. He specified its exact dimensions. Moses built it exactly as it was revealed to him on the mountain. When it was complete, God filled it with his presence. In Exodus 40:1, God told Moses to set it up. The remainder of the chapter says “as the Lord commanded” seven times.

People assume that once Israel was in the promised land and not travelling around, God wanted a permanent temple to replace the tabernacle, but there is no record of him saying this. God told Nathan the opposite.

I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar (2 Sam 7:6-7)?
A stone temple was just another idea copied from the surrounding nations.

David wanted to build a temple. He seemed to be motivated by embarrassment that he had a better dwelling than the Lord.

Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent (2 Sam 7:2).
David felt guilty about his wealth. That was not a very good motivation. God had not told him to build a temple. No prophet commanded him to do it. It was just a good idea.

Nathan the prophet told David not to build a temple (2 Sam 7:4). The reason given was that David had blood on his hands.

You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight (1 Chron 22:8).
David assumed that this meant that the son who succeeded him would build the temple, so he set about getting the materials ready. He gathered up gold and silver, and cedars from Lebanon. This was a bit presumptuous, because God had not given him a blueprint, so he did not know that God wanted cedars.

Most Christians agree that God wanted Solomon to build the temple, but that assumption is not correct. There is no record in the scriptures of God telling Solomon to build a temple. The reason is that he was not qualified to do it either. Solomon had blood on his hands like his Father. He had killed his brother to secure his throne (1 Kings 2:25), and organised for some of David’s loyal soldiers to be slaughtered (1 Kings 2:31,46).

We need to look more closely at what God said to David.

When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever (2 Sam 7:12-13).
God said that a descendant of David would build a house for him and that the throne of his kingdom would be established forever. This cannot be a reference to Solomon, because his dynasty did not last forever. His son Rehoboam lost half the kingdom, and the rest of his descendants disappeared with the Babylonian exile. This prophecy rules out Solomon as the one who was to build the temple.

Jesus was the descendant of David who established a Kingdom that will last forever. This means that he is the one whom God intended to build a temple. God fulfilled this promise through Jesus. He said

Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days... But the temple he had spoken of was his body (John 2 20-21).
The body of Christ is the temple of the Holy Spirit that Jesus built for God to dwell in on earth. Jesus' blood from his hands and side, not on his hands, made it possible for the Holy Spirit to live in human hearts. This was the temple that God really wanted. Until Jesus came, God would have been quite happy living in a tent. A temple of gold and stone was not much use to him because he really wanted to tabernacle in human hearts.

When David spoke to Solomon near the end of his life, he misquoted what God said, probably because he did not understand it. You will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever (1 Chron 22:9-10). David was wrong because God had not promised that Solomon’s throne would last forever. He had not said that Solomon would build a temple.

Solomon took David at his word. He told Hiram King of Tyre about his plans.

I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David (1 Kings 5:5).
He spoke with the King of Tyre, but did not hear from God directly, although wisdom was the gift that God had given him.

In contrast to the tabernacle, God never gave Solomon instructions for the temple. The design adopted was a human design. The Bible records a description of the temple (1 Kings 6), but there are no instructions about how it should be built. 1 Samuel 6,7 describes the building. It is full of Solomon did, did, did, but "God said" is never mentioned. The furniture for the temple was made by foreign artisans.

King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram, whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali and whose father was from Tyre and a skilled craftsman in bronze (1 Kings 7:13-14).

This contrasts with the tabernacle, where the furniture was made by men that God had chosen and filled with the Spirit, like Bezalel, son of Uri.

He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts (Ex 35:31-33).
The materials for the tabernacle were given by the people. The materials for the temple were purchased from the nations. The tabernacle was a work of the Spirit, whereas the temple was a human work.

When Solomon dedicated the temple, Solomon did all the talking (1 Kings 5-8). God hardly spoke, (Solomon did most of the talking) but he did fill it with his glory, because he is not peevish. He honoured Solomon’s intention, even if his plan was wrong. His brief statement is interesting.

I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever (1 Kings 9:3).
This is very understated. God is clear that Solomon built the temple, and he was blessing what Solomon did. God never said that he commanded Solomon to build a temple. This contrasts with the tabernacle, which he said, “I commanded you to build”.

Prophetic Failure

Solomon could have been a great prophet. God gave him amazing wisdom, because he asked for discernment to administer justice. Kings and powerful men came to him from all over the world for advice. He could have used the opportunity this authority provided to release God to work among the nations. He could have taught them the glory of God’s law.

Solomon missed a great opportunity, because he took their wealth, married their daughters, and gave their gods a home in the land. Instead of using his wisdom to expand God’s authority on earth, he undermined his authority in Israel by surrendering to false gods.