SOLOMON'S TEMPLE #3
by Raymond Capt M.A., A.I.A.
THE HOLY PLACE
"And he built the walls of the house within with boards of cedar, both the floor of the house, and the walls of the ceiling: and he covered them on the inside with wood, and covered the floor of the house with planks of fir.
And he built twenty cubits on the sides of the house, both the floor and the walls with boards of cedar: he even built them for it within, even for the oracle, even for the most holy place.
And the house, that is, the temple before it, was forty cubits long. And the cedar of the house with in, carved with knops and open flowers: all was cedar; there was no stone seen." (1 Kings 6:15-18)
The Holy Place was a spacious room, given by some scholars as 60 feet long, 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. The interior walls were covered with panels of cedar wood carvings, overlaid with gold. The carvings consisted of cherubims, palm trees and flowers. The palm trees were considered the "tree of life" because they lived so long and bore so much fruit. The carvings described as "knops and open flowers" were the egg-shaped gourds and rosettes, so commonplace, as decorative motifs, in Solomon's time.
We may suppose that while the figures were in bas-relief, their outline was sunken, so that the upper surface did not extend beyond the surface of the boards. This is the most common form of engraving on the Egyptian monuments. Some idea of these designs may be gleaned from numerous fragments of carved ivory miniatures that have been recovered in quantity from Assyrian royal palaces in Iraq. One typical example from Numrud is shown below. Showing "knops and open flowers."
Phoenicians, from Tyre and Gebal (Byblos), were given the task of finishing the interiors and it seems that exact repetition of design was a favorite technique of the carvers.
The Biblical text refers to the panels as having been "overlaid" with gold, but students of Hebrew suggest the word "overlaid" is more accurately translated "inlaid." The floor was not then, "overlaid" with gold, but highlighted by skillful use of gold inlay.
The "windows of narrow lights " of I Kings 6:4 are now recognized as a "lattice type," or "windows with recessed frames," as indicated from a contemporary ivory inlay from Khorsabad.
The roof was made of beams and boards of cedar. Whether it was flat or gabled is not stated, but in keeping with the custom of the period, the former is more likely.
The floor was of cypress wood, and, like the walls and ceiling was "overlaid'' with gold. Biblical "cypress" or "fir," was Cilician cypress, (Cypressus sempervirens) a very hard wood used today in the fine filigree wood carvings produced by the world famous carvers of Damascus. The fir, we know today, is too soft a wood and would have been unsuited for sustained wear.
The Howland-Garber reconstruction of Solomon's Temple also suggests the use of a kind of prefabrication; a method called "pallet" construction. A pallet is, in this sense, a large, self-supporting piece so constructed that it may be covered with boards and used as a floor, ceiling or wall panel.
These could have been fabricated outside the Temple area, carried into the structure and put in place silently. This would be in keeping with I Kings 6:7 that states the House was erected without the sound of a hammer, or any other tool of iron, being heard during the period of construction.
Nails could have been used in fastening together the pallets as evidenced by the discovery, at Ezion-Geber, of copper spikes produced at Solomon's refineries near the Red Sea. Fabricated cedar beams nailed together like I-beams would have provided support for the ceiling.
In the Holy Place were kept some relics from the Tabernacle: an Altar of Burnt Incense, now gold plated, the Table of Shewbread, and ten 7 branched "lampstands," instead of the "one" which was in-the Tabernacle.
"And the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the oracle, with the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs of gold." (I Kings 7:49)
Lamps were used in Solomon's Temple to provide additional light for the priests doing their assigned tasks. The candlesticks of which the King James Version speaks (in connection with the Temple) are more accurately understood when considered as being lampholders. Candles were not used until after the Biblical period.
In earliest times a lamp consisted of a clay saucer filled with oil, on the rim of which rested a wick of twisted thread. About 2000 B.C. the first real lamps appeared. These early models were shaped like saucers and had their rims pinched, in four places, to form lips for holding the wicks.
From the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1500 B.C.) onward, the lamps had a single pinched lip becoming increasingly pinched. During the Israelite period lamps acquired bases and were found to have rims, pinched in seven places, for holding seven wicks. A metal stand with a tripod, found at Megiddo, together with a copper lamp unearthed at Ezion Geber (having seven wick channels) have served as guides in reconstructing the lamps of the Temple. It is doubtful if the "menorah" form of the lampstand, used in the Tabernacle and again in Herod's period, was used in Solomon's Temple, as an example from the period of the Israelite monarchy is yet to be found.
Such a seven-lipped lamp is described in Zech. 4:2 as "a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the tip thereof.''
In symbolism the seven lamps were supposed, by some scholars, to refer to the seven days of the week and by others to represent the seven planets. The planets were regarded as the "eyes'' of God, which beheld everything. (A STRANGE IDEA I WOULD SAY - Keith Hunt)
The single, seven branched candelabra of the Holy Place in the Tabernacle, was replaced with 10 in Solomon's Temple. Five were on the right side and five on the left side. Like a similar allegory, paralleling the 10 Lavers, we see revealed by the 10 candlesticks the foreknowledge that in the Christian era, light would be diffused by the 10 tribed House of Israel.
When the second temple was built by Jerubbabel, the 10 tribes were in exile so only one candlestick is found in his temple. It represented the tribe of Benjamin which was given as a light unto the House of Judah (I Kings 11:36) and was the only other tribe returning, with the remnant of Judah, from the Babylonian captivity. (NO THERE WERE LEVITES ALSO - Keith Hunt)
The lamp, when taken together with "light" and "lampstand" had considerable symbolical power in the Biblical period. Light, emitted from a lamp, symbolizes universally, life as opposed to death, the realm of darkness.
Light and hence "lamp" also stands for the divine presence. "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life;" (John 8:12) "the Lamb is the light thereof; " (Rev. 21:23) "In him was life: and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. " (John 1:4,5)
Indeed, the light of the Holy Place went unheeded by many priests of the Old Covenant order, who labored in gross darkness, neglecting the great truths prefigured in the light of the candlesticks.
Today, we too, labor in darkness who fail to recognize the seven-branched lamp as typifying the Christian ministry, portrayed in the parallelism that exists between the Gospel of St. John and the Tabernacle services, reiterated in Solomon's Temple.
THE TABLE OF SHEWBREAD
"And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the Lord: the Altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was" (I Kings 7:48)
The Table of Shewbread, two cubits long, one cubit wide, and a cubit and a half high, held the twelve loaves of bread known as the "Bread of the Presence" which the priests brought, fresh, into the Holy Place each Sabbath. This offering was required to be continually in the presence of the Lord. (Exod. 25:30)
Presumably, the bread was unleavened although we have no Biblical confirmation of this matter. Josephus states that it was unleavened and the loaves, which were baked the day before the Sabbath, were brought into the Temple the morning of the Sabbath and heaped in two rows of six, one loaf leaning against another. A supply of pure frankincense, which was also placed on the table, was changed as a part of this ceremony. (Antiq. Ill 6:6; 10:7)
The twelve loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel, who were to be, in a mystical sense, like our Lord, the "Bread of Life." (John 6:35) In the parable of the wheatfield, these mystical loaves were to be of the good seed, of the Kingdom, appointed for the nourishing of mankind.
Luke suggests that bread refers to the messianic banquet when he says, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." (Luke 14:15) The Christian proclaims the Lord's death, until He returns, whenever he partakes of the bread and the wine.
Jesus refers to Himself as the, "true bread from heaven."[John. 6: 31-33) This claim is strengthened in verse 35; "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.''
Upon the Table of Shewbread there stood other vessels (II Chron. 29:18) which would explain how the drink-offering of wine was handled in the Holy Place. (Exod. 29:40; Lev. 23:13,18,37)
The Shewbread and the Wine stood on the Table to typify the mystical body and blood of Christ, so offered by our Lord, at the Last Supper. Each Sabbath, the priests partook of the sacrament when they ate the old loaves, after they had been replaced by new, (Lev. 24:5-9) and drank the drink-offering of wine.
Bread is often used in metaphorical expressions, both in the Old Testament and the New. Except for the ''breaking of bread,'' involved in the "Lord's Supper," it is used only allegorically, in reference to the coming kingdom of God or to Jesus Christ, Himself. Bread and wine is what Melchizedek brought to Abraham (Gen 14:18) and Christ was "made an high priest, forever, after the order of Melchisedec." (Heb. 6:20)
The various "vessels" are not described in detail in the Scriptures which refers to "the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them." (Exod. 25:29; Num. 4:7)
"Covers" and "bowls" are sometimes translated as "flagons" and "chalices." Josephus suggests that two golden cups, filled with frankincense, were set on the Table of Shewbread with the bread.
Although I Kings speaks of "the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was," II Chronicles cites "the tables whereon the shewbread was set." (II Chron. 4:19) And in an earlier verse (vs 8) says there were ten such tables, and that they were set in the Temple, "five on the right side and five on the left. " There is no real contradiction here between Kings and Chronicles as different tables could have been used on different Sabbaths. I Chronicles 28:16 refers to other tables and describes some of them being made of silver.
THE ALTAR OF BURNT INCENSE
"And Solomon made all the vessels that were for the house of God, the golden altar also... " (II Chron. 4:19)
I Kings refers to the Altar of Burnt Incense as the "Altar of Gold.'' It is not clear whether this item, as well as the Table of Shewbread was made new or were the original ones used in the Tent Tabernacle. If they were taken from the Tabernacle as is most likely the case, (II Chron. 5:5 Moffatt) then they may have been refinished with gold before being placed in the Temple.
A limestone altar, with horns, found by the Oriental Institute at Megiddo (circa twelfth century B.C.) has given us a reasonable likeness of the Altar. It was noted the dimensions were almost identical with those given in I Kings.
The addition of a small copper pan, placed between the horns, was in keeping with archaeological evidence of the use of such a device to guard against damage, from the heat, to the wood and the gold overlay of the top.
The offering of incense is treated as a very sacred rite wherever mentioned in the Old Testament. It was a capital offense for anyone,other than the High Priest, to make or offer this incense.
The incense, a compound of gums and spices, when burnt, emitted a "sweet smell" that the priests thought God, like His people, would enjoy. This was a continuance of God's instruction to Aaron. (Lev. 16:12,13) It was further beheved that incense was effective in making atonement before Him. (Num 16:46-48)
While Zacharias was officiating at the Golden Altar, "the whole multitude of the people were praying without, at the time of incense" (Luke 1:10) thus revealing, in their act, the meaning of the ritual at the very time of its enactment.
In Rev. we read "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. " (Rev. 8:3,4)
An interesting parallel between the offering of incense and prayer can be found in Ps. 141:2, Luke 1:10 and Rev. 8:3. The fragrance of the incense was symbolic of the prayers of the faithful, which when produced by the fire of the Holy Spirit acting upon thought, word, and deed, bound together in adoration, ascend acceptably unto God: "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.'' (Ps 141:2)
THE DOORS OF THE SANCTUARY
"And for the entering of the oracle he made doors of olive tree: the lintel and side posts were a fifth part of the wall.
The two doors also were of olive tree; and he carved upon them carvings of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold, and spread gold upon the cherubims, and upon the palm trees." (IKings 6:31,32)
In keeping with the temple designs of the period, it is believed that the Inner Sanctuary had a floor elevated above the rest of the Temple. If so, steps would have been required ascending from the Holy Place to the entrance of the Inner Sanctuary or "Holy of Holies." In any case, a pair of folding olive wood doors separated the Oracle, or Ark, from the Holy Place.
The obscure phrase, "side posts were a fifth part," (Authorized Version) suggests there was something about the entrance to the Holy of Hohes that was "pentagonal" or "fivefold." One interpretation is that the door posts were pentagonal, in cross section, thus allowing the doors to swing wider than a 90 degree angle.
The Moffatt translation, however provides grounds for a more logical hypothesis. "He made doors of olive wood for the vestibule of the inner shrine; the vestibule and the pilasters formed a pentagon]' (I Kings 6:31 Moffatt) This would indicate a "vestibule" corresponding with the Temple "vestibule" or Porch, which was an architectural feature often found in temples of the East. If so, it would have been raised to the floor level of the Oracle.
The "pilasters" could refer to the "Almug wood pillars" mentioned in I Kings 10:12 for which no structural use has been determined. Extending to the ceiling of the Holy Place, these pentagon shaped sandalwood pillars, standing at each intersecting corner of the pentagonal "vestibule," focused the eyes of the observer, already cast upward by the flight of stairs leading up to the Inner Sanctuary, ever higher; conveying the feeling of "exaltation" expressed in the lofty doors and ceiling of the Temple.
The Septuagint Bible further suggests a porch before the Holy of Hohes. "And for the door way of the oracle he made doors of juniper wood, there were porches in a four-fold way ." (I Kings 6:31) "Four-fold way" would describe the four sides of the pentagon jutting out from the fifth side. (abutting to and paralleling the wall between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies)
These doors were decorated with woodcarvings matching the wall panelling as were the fir doors to the Holy Place. Probably, the "Holy of Holies" doors were more elaborately carved and more richly "inlaid" with gold.
There is disagreement, among scholars, as to whether there was a veil in addition to the doors. The Book of Kings makes no mention of a veil, but in I Kings 6:21 we read, "and he made a partition by the chains of gold across before the oracle. "
One interpretation gives "chains" as a design carved or incised upon the doors, while another supposes the passage originally read, "and he drew the curtain, provided with golden chains, across before the oracle.'' Josephus makes mention of a curtain before the doors and also, II Chron. 3:14 states there was a veil of "blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen" with figures of cherubim embroidered upon it. Notwithstanding, most scholars believe the veil may have been added, later, and was not a part of the Temple's original furnishings.
In the doors of the Sanctuary, a metonymy in wood may be discerned in the fact that the doorposts, lintels and the doors of the "Holy of Hohes" were made of olive wood. Olive wood was the symbol of priestly Israel and since Israel was called to be a "kingdom of priests and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:6) and had become so, in the early years of the Christian dispensation; (I Peter 2:9) it follows that olive wood stands for the 12 tribes of Israel, in their ultimate condition of consecration.
As entrance to the "Holy of Holies" could only be effected through its doorway which was of olive wood, it shows entry into the true Temple must be, as it were, through the doorway of sanctified Israel as described in I Peter 2:9, "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. "
In the Tabernacle there was no use of olive wood, the symbol of priestly Israel, but the use of oil of olives for lighting the Holy Place and for the annointing, was symbolic of Israel's priesthood.