KING SOLOMON'S TEMPLE
A STUDY OF ITS SYMBOLISM
by Raymond Capt M.A., A.I.A.
(The Archaeological Institute of America)
The Temple of Solomon, known as the House of God was, in some respects, the most wonderful building constructed by human craft. The Biblical reference of the Temple conveys to the reader, its grandeur and holiness, but reveals so few details that little hope was held of ever producing an accurate reconstruction.
Many attempts in the past to reconstruct the Temple have produced a wide variety of sketches and plans, some of them fantastically imaginative.
Modern archaeologists, seeking to shed light on the Bible's most famous building, have dug amid the ancient masonry of Mt. Moriah or Temple Hill in Jerusalem, and searched for parallels and origins in contemporary buildings in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Phoenicia. (Canaan)
Their discoveries have revealed the architectural skill and building power of Solomon and his successors. Not only has the accuracy of the Sacred Scriptures been confirmed, but we can more vividly visualize the buildings, decorations and furnishings of the Temple.
Today, a visitor to Jerusalem can see the very stones placed in position by the masons of Solomon. He can explore the ingenious system by which water was brought to the Temple Hill and stored there. He can enter the great cavern under the Old City, now known, with some justification, as Solomon's Quarries where the famous white limestone that formed the basic building material of the Temple was cut and finished by Phoenician craftsmen.
In recent years, several conceptions of Solomon's Temple have been pubhshed. The Howland — Garber model, a work incorporating most recent discoveries, is in the opinion of this writer, the most realistic presentation to date. Linear illustrations of this reconstruction are shown in this work.
This booklet is designed to bring you a brief study of the Temple and a better understanding of its spiritual meaning.
WHY WAS IT BUILT?
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
The Scriptures speak of God as a "wise Master Builder," and of his laying the "cornerstone" of creation. Because God is the builder of this and other worlds, Masonry calls Him the Supreme Architect of the Universe. Hence, architecture is as old as the universe.
When God, the Supreme Architect of the Universe wanted an earthly house or temple, in which to dwell among men, he gave to men the plan of the building he would have them build.
A temple means a great house. In a higher sense it means a house of worship. In the highest, it means a habitation of God. Since God, whom, "the heaven, and the heaven of heavens cannot contain," (II Chron. 6:18) is spirit, why did He approve of Man's construction of a house or temple?
The answer plainly is: because men are prone to forget God: To lose the sense of God's nearness. Because men are forever losing this sense, it must be constantly restored. If man was completely spiritual he would need no temple, no forms of worship. He would see God in all places and feel His presence at all times. But since man has fallen, it is only through forms that God can guide us up to a higher spiritual condition or restoration.
If it were not for the visible world in which we live, God would be nothing to us. Yet God would exist just as he does now. It is through the visible creation that the invisible God becomes a reality to us. The building of the Wilderness Tabernacle was an effort of God to bring men nearer to Him through material forms. Man is so material in his nature that immaterial truth must be put into material forms before he can understand it.
God is not in one place more than another, but men must be made to feel that He is somewhere, before they realize that He is everywhere. Because of this demand in human nature, God appointed men to build the Tabernacle, which was but an allegory, a figure for the time 'hen present till... "a greater and more perfect Tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building." (Heb. 9:11)
Solomon's Temple was built in answer to man's need of a sacred place of worship. Not that it was to become more sacred than other places, it was only declared so through an impressive ceremony, to aid men in realizing the sacredness of all places.
God teaches us that material things are sacred in the same way. He takes a part of the things He has made and sets them apart for a sacred use. In doing so, He teaches us all things are sacred, because everything is made by Him and everything God made is very good. (Gen. 1:31) God made man, therefore, man is, in his essential nature, sacred. But man has lost the sense of his own sacredness. Now, God would restore this lost sense.
SYMBOLISM IN THE TEMPLE
The Scriptures in many places employ ideas borrowed from architecture to convey to the mind of man, spiritual and heavenly things. The good man is called a "living stone," a "spiritual house," "God's building" and a "temple of the Holy Spirit."
The House of God, known as Solomon's Temple, also used architecture to convey spiritual truths. No Bibhcal scholar will venture to deny that in its construction and mode of building can be found an apparent design to establish a foundation for symbolism.
As in the Tabernacle, each detail of the Temple's construction, from the foundation to the roof, embodied a symbolism, in forms,, to teach men spiritual truths. Each holy vessel, garment and covering, every substance, its texture, color, sound or odor — everything pertaining to sensory perception was symbolic of some particular aspect of Messianic truth proclaimed for the edification of mankind.
The importance of the Temple symbolism is shown in the amount of attention given to it in the Bible. A large part of both the Old Testament and the New Testament is taken up with this symbolism. It is often referred to by the prophets, the apostles and even by Jesus Christ.
Since the history of the Temple is a part of the Bible, is not its symbolism a part of the Bible? Should not every stone and piece of timber have a meaning to us? We should search. We are invited to do so: "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.'' (Prov. 25:2)
The glory of the Temple and its services (which were shadows of better things to come) have passed away, but its symbolism gives us a glimpse, in prophetic vision, of a new creation, when "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. " (2 Cor. 5:17)
A study of the symbolism of this holy structure will not only lead us to the ' 'Lord of the Temple'' but reveal a truth hidden by the infinite wisdom of the Almighty for illumination in this day; to remove the "blindness" from our eyes.
Solomon's Temple in its glory and splendor symbolizes man in his original pristine state of being; a temple, which the "indwelling Spirit," illuminated and hallowed. But this temple was undermined by sin, and has become a sad ruin. As we should expect, a man stands a contradiction to nature. Sin has rendered him unnatural. He is manifestly in a state in which some accident has left him. In a word, man is faUen, a temple "crumbled and ruined;" Like Zerubbabel's Temple, the Fire of the Holy Spirit extinguished.
Can he be restored? Is man, the temple of the Holy Spirit, to remain a ruin forever? No; God made man, therefore, man is, in his essential nature sacred. The Word of God has gone forth, the promise has been given, that on the site of its ruin it may rise again, a goodly structure. By the skillful hand of the Master Builder, the foundation was laid and the design restored. This is the central theme of the Bible, in which can be found the plans of the living Temple God would have each man build.
The EMPIRE of DAVID
HISTORY OF THE TEMPLE
The Temple originated as a thought in the mind of David. In the second Book of Samuel we read how King David was given rest from all the enemies of his kingdom and began to think it wrong that he should enjoy residence in "an house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwelleth within curtains." (II Sam. 7:2; I Chron. 17:1)
Nathan the Prophet agreed with the king and told him to go ahead and do something about it. God guided the hand of the king in writing out the full and complete plans for the construction and furnishings of the Temple he would have built. "All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern. " (I Chron. 28:19)
But before David's plans had matured, God told David of a different plan. Although he would be allowed to plan and gather materials, David would not be allowed to carry out the erection of his desired house of God. Because David had been a "man of war" and had "shed much blood," ( I Chron. 22:8; 28:3) his son, a man of peace (which is the meaning of the name Solomon) would be assigned the task. (I Chron. 22:9,10)
David, now prohibited from building a Temple for the Lord, began to collect and prepare the material for its erection by Solomon, his son, a self-imposed task to which David devoted his declining years. The site chosen for the Temple was Mt. Moriah, one of the several hills rising out of a mountain ridge known as Mt. Zion. Much of the history of this famous site is related in the Bible. Genesis twenty-two records how Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac on this hallowed ground.
The second Book of Samuel, chapter twenty four relates how King David bought Mt. Moriah from a Jebusite named Araimah, who owned a threshing floor on its summit, for 50 shekels of silver. David wanted to build an altar to give thanks for the end of a pestilence that had killed 70,000 men of his kingdom. David in giving thanks said, "This is the house of the Lord God." (I Chron. 22:1) So we see that even before the Temple was built, the site was called the "House of God."
The site of the threshing floor lies today within the sacred enclosure of the Moslems known as the Haram- esh-Sherif ("Noble Sanctuary"). The most striking natural feature is a great outcropping of rock some 58 feet long, 51 feet broad and 4 to 6 1/2 feet high. This is known as es-Sakhra or the "Sacred Rock" and today is covered by the structure called the "Kubbet es-Sakhra." ("Dome of the Rock") The "Sacred Rock" shows indications of having been used as an altar in very ancient times. Cut channels on the surface of the rock can still be traced that appear to have served as conducts for the blood of sacrificial animals, to an opening on the top of the rock and on to a cavity below.
While the rock itself may have served as Araunah's threshing floor, it is more likely the relatively large and level area directly east of the rock would have provided a better surface for the work of threshing, and became the site of David's altar. This level site would also have been the logical site of Solomon's Temple with perhaps the Holy of Holies situated directly over the rock. Some scholars suggest the "Altar of Burnt Offerings" was constructed over or alongside of the rock, the latter location being more probable; the rock with its underground chamber accommodating the blood of the sacrificial animals. Underground conduits carried the blood to the nearby Valley of Kidron.
After the death of David, Solomon began the noble task of erecting the Temple which his father had planned. Solomon sent word to Hiram, Kong of Tyre: "And behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name. Now therefore command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon; and my servants shall be with thy servants: and unto thee will J give hire for thy servants according to all that thou shalt appoint: for thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians." (I Kings 5:5,6)
Hiram, King of Tyre replied: "I have considered the things which thou sentest to me for: and I will do all thy desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of fir. My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon unto the sea: and I will convey them by sea in floats unto the place that thou shalt appoint me..." (I Kings 5:8,9)
The mountains of Lebanon provided the major source of cedar in Bible times. Growing to a height of over one hundred and fifty feet, cedars of Lebanon (cedrus libani) were regarded as the stateliest of trees (I Kings 4:33) and symbols of strength and power. (Psalm 92:12) They were the most sought after and highly prized trees in the ancient world.
In addition to the material, Phoenician workmen, skilled in wood and metal work, were hired to oversee Solomon's workers. It is also intimated that Hiram, the renowned mason king, sent stone masons to cut, square, hew and polish the stones for the sacred edifice. Solomon also employed Hiram, the widow's son, an accomplished Tyrian artist.
The widow's son, also known as Ab. Hiram or Hiram Abiff (Father Hiram), was made the chief architect in the construction of the Temple. He is described in the Bible as "a man full of wisdom and understanding and cunning.''' (II Chron. 2:13) His father was a citizen of Tyre, a worker of brass, while his mother was of the tribe of Dan, and apparently a widow of a man of the tribe of Naphtali. Thus he was by birth partly Hebrew and partly Phoenician.
The work on the Temple was begun in the fourth year (974 B.C.) of Solomon's reign and finished in the eleventh, a little over seven years. Its completion was the elevation and the purification of the national faith. The Commandments of Moses were studied, and followed with scrupulous care. All the general sacrifices, to be provided by the head of the nation, were regularly offered. The three great festivals of the year were now, for the first time, regularly observed, and the ordinance of David as to the course of the priests and Levites was now set in motion, it being distinctly recorded that this was done as David, had commanded. (H Chron. 8:12-16; I Kings 9:25)
Solomon died in 926-25 B.C. and was succeeded by his son Rehoboam. The strained relations between the northern tribes and the monarchy gave way to open revolt and the division of the United Kingdom of Israel came to pass. From the building of the Temple by Solomon, Jerusalem, though always accounted to the tribe of Benjamin, became more or less inter-tribal. It became the Mecca for all Israel until the division of the kingdom, after which the tribe of Judah asserted a right to the ' 'holy city.''
Judah's claim to the city of Jerusalem may have come about due to the fact that the Judean territory terminated at the southern gates of the city. The throne of Judah on Mount Zion in so close proximity to Jerusalem and the coronation of the royal kings taking place in the Temple in Jerusalem may also have contributed to the validity of any claim made by the royal tribe of Judah. In any case, Jerusalem became the frontier capital of the southern group known as the Southern Kingdom of Judah as opposed to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
For nearly four centuries after the division of the kingdom, Solomon's Temple continued to serve the people of Jerusalem. During this time a succession of kings followed Rehoboam; the Northern Kingdom of Israel together with a large number of the people of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, were taken captive to Assyria; (Jerusalem alone of the major cities of the south successfully resisted the Assyrians) the Babylonians conquered the Assyrians; and Jehoiachin became King of Judah. (cir. 598-597 B.C.)
"Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months.. .At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it. And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out...and the king of Babylon took him. ..And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king's house... And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon... And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father's brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah." (JL Kings 24:8-17)
BABYLONIAN CHRONICLE OF CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM
From a cuneiform tablet found in the excavations of ancient Babylon, comes this account of the events described in the Bible: "In the seventh year, in the month of Kislev (Nov/Dec) the King of Akkad (Babylon) assembled his army, and after he had invaded the land of Hatti (Syria-Palestine) he laid siege to the city of Judah and on the second day of the month of Adar (corresponding to the Christian calendar — March 16, 597 BC) he siezed the city and captured the king . (Jehoiachin) He appointed in his place a king (Zedekiah) of his own choice, received rich tribute and sent them to Babylon.''
Less than ten years after Nebuchadnezzar set up Zedekiah as a puppet king, the Judeans revolted against Babylon again. Nebuchadnezzar again invaded Judah with his armies, destroying every major city and annihilated most of the population. His army besieged Jerusalem for a year and a half before famine-weakened defenders surrendered to be taken captive to Babylon. After the city was plundered by the Babylonians it was destroyed including Solomon's Temple. Much of the glory of the Temple had already been torn away and paid as tribute when foreign conquerors menaced Judah.
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM BY NEBUCHADNEZZAR
Jeremiah's account of the fall of Jerusalem is given in his 39th chapter. Its epitaph was written by Jeremiah: "And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assemble:...The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces; they have made a noise in the house of the Lord, as in the day of a solemn feast." (Lam. 2:6,7)
It is very remarkable that the Prophet Jeremiah in his 52nd chapter, in the midst of reciting appalling disaster to Judah and to the Temple, seems suddenly concerned with the symbolic import of the pillars. He even stops his tale of woe to give a graphic description of their singular height and dimensions. Jeremiah goes on to relate the breaking up of the columns, and of their removal by the soldiers of the Babylonians.
Other than just relating the destruction of the pillars, Jeremiah does not appear to be greatly disturbed. Such an attitude would be consistent that the Prophet was given a prophetic vision of the glories ofthe "last days" and that he beheld the fulfillment of God's covenants and the resitution of Israel in her "appointed land" and the continuation of David's Throne, as symbolically proclaimed by the pillars. Perhaps he saw the Temple, although being destroyed, rebuilt in a new and greater manifestation.
Even though not a stone of Solomon's Temple has been found (even the huge platform it rested on was ruthlessly destroyed by Herod the Great's reconstruction centuries later), by correlating the Bibhcal descriptions (I Kings chapter 6) with information obtained through excavations in a number of sites in Phoenicia, it is today possible to reconstruct Solomon's Temple with considerable more accuracy than fifty years ago.
There was a period of about 50 years from the destruction of the Temple (by the Babylonians) to the beginning of reconstruction (by Zerubbabel). Through the Prophet Haggai, the Lord encouraged Zerubbabel in his rebuilding with a promise, "the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former.'' (Haggai 2:9)
The general plan of this second Temple was similar to the first, but it exceeded the original in almost every dimension by one-third. The first far surpassed it in decorations of gold and other ornaments. Also said to have been missing in the second Temple was the "Ark," the "Urim and Thummin," the "Fire From Heaven," the "Divine Presence" or "Cloud of Glory," and the "spirit of prophecy" and ' 'power of miracles.''
Zerubbabel's Temple was often defiled in the wars before Christ, and from time to time additions and changes were made. Notable was the fortifying of the Temple by the high priest Simon II, a practice continued by the Hasmoneans.
Herod's Temple was not the construction of a third Temple, but only a restoration and extensive enlargement of the second. For grandeur and beauty its Greco-Roman architecture exceeded that of the Temple of Solomon. Herod began his reconstruction in 20 B.C. and completed it about a year and a half later. However, subsidiary construction continued up to the time of its destruction by the Romans, under Titus, in 70 A.D.
Herod the Great, who desired to kill the Child Jesus of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16) had unknowingly prepared the Temple to receive the Lord Christ. The "glory of this latter house" did become "greater than the former'' as the latter was hallowed by the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ as the prophet Haggai had foretold to Zerubbabel.
This was also the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Malachi to the priests of Zerubbabel's time, concerning the coming of the Messiah. "Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in." (Malachi 3:1)
In 132 A.D. (under Bar Cocheba revolutionaries) the Temple of Herod was partially restored but three years later Hadrian destoyed it and rebuilt a temple dedicated to Jupiter Capitalhius. The Holy Hill was neglected until the coming of the Mohammedan power to Jerusalem and the completion of the famed ' 'Dome of the Rock,'' in 689 A.D. It is today the third holiest shrine for Moslems.
The Crusaders turned it into a Christian Shrine in 1099 A.D., renaming it Templum Dominum (or Temple of the Lord). When Saladin captured Jerusalem in 1197 A.D. the Golden Cross was hurled down from the top of the Dome and the Crescent restored.
TO BE CONTINUED