SOLOMON'S TEMPLE #4
by Raymond Capt M.A., A.I.A.
THE HOLY OF HOLIES
"And the oracle he prepared in the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of the Lord.
And the oracle in the forepart was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth and twenty cubits in height thereof: and he overlaid it with pure gold: and so covered the altar which was of cedar.'' (I Kings 6:19,20)
The "Holy of Holies" was the inner Sanctuary, "the Most Holy Place,'' the receptacle for the Ark of the Covenant. It was in the shape of a perfect cube, estimated to be 30 feet square. (using 18" to a cubit)
In a cube we see something of transcendental perfection indicated: the length and breadth and height being equal. This significance of the cube is seen in the fact that the Holy of Holies, both, in the Wilderness Tabernacle and in Solomon's Temple were cubes. John the Revelator, describes the future "New Jerusalem" as a cube. (Rev. 21:16)
Since the Temple, on a whole, is given as 30 cubits in height, (45 feet) there is a difference of 10 cubits, or 15 feet, to explain. The accepted explanation is that in addition to the floor being raised, the ceiling was lowered, the area below the floor added to the space above equalling the 10 cubits.
There is no Biblical conflict with this hypothesis although nothing is said about a difference in height, anywhere in the Scriptures. Archaeological analogies, ranging from early Assyrian temples to Phoenician temples of Solomon's period, justify raising the floor of the inner Sanctuary.
The space resulting between the ceiling of the Holy of Holies and the ceiling of the Temple proper is often mentioned, by writers on Solomon's Temple, as an "upper" or "secret" chamber, quoting I Chron. 28:11, and II Chron. 3:9, where certain "upper chambers" are mentioned. It is more likely that these referred to a part of the upper tier of the Side Chambers.
As in the case of the Holy Place, the interior of the Inner Sanctuary was covered with carved panels of cedar "overlaid" with gold, probably more richly ornamented. There were no windows. The only light came from the Holy Place with its "lattice" windows and lamp-stands.
Although the devout could gaze from the courtyard through the opened doors, and the priests could look, from the Holy Place, into the darkened chamber; only the High Priests saw its esoteric beauty, from the inside. In like manner, just as many had seen Jesus, only His disciples could really say, "We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
The Holy of Holies, was, typically, the place of His "throne," (Ezek. 43:7) seen only by the High Priest during the Day of Atonement. This Day of Atonement was the one day in the whole year when the High Priest entered into the Holy of Hohes where the Ark of the Covenant and the Cherubim were over the Mercy Seat. Divested of his robes "for glory and for beauty, " he was clad only in pure white linen. Alone, lonely, without outward beauty ("no beauty that we should desire him") except that of symbolical purity, the High Priest went in once a year to offer for his own sins and those of the people.
Then came a ceremony unique and significant in character. It was the ceremony of the "Scapegoat." (Azazel) The origin of the ceremony began with the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and is given in Leviticus chapter 16. Two goats were chosen and brought to the door of the Tabernacle. Lots were cast, one "for the Lord" and one for the "Scapegoat.'' The one on whom the lot "for the Lord'' fell was offered as a sin-offering and its blood taken into the Holy of Hohes as an atonement. The "Scapegoat," was to be presented alive before the Lord "to made an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.''
But before that was done, the High Priest had to lay both hands on the head of the hve goat and confess all the iniquities of the Children of Israel, "all their transgressions in all of their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat" and then "shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness. " (v. 21) "And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.'' (v. 22)
Thus atonement was accomplished by the offering of blood and sprinkling it before the Mercy Seat. The live goat was public manifestation and proof of acceptance of the sacrifice in the Divine Presence and the transference of guilt from the sinner to the Scapegoat. What was accomplished "within" was manifested "without." It signified the dismissal, (Azazel — dismissal, E..V. margin) of our sins. Christ is our "Azazel,'' our ''Scapegoat," "cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken ." (Isa. 53:8)
(NO, THE SCAPE-GOAT WAS NOT CHRIST; THE SCAPEGOAT WAS REPRESENTATIVE OF SATAN THE DEVIL, WHO HAS A PART IN ALL SINS, BEING THE FIRST SINNER, THEN HIS WORK OF DECEPTION AND TEMPTATIONS IN SINS. HE WILL RIGHTLY ONE DAY HAVE TO ANSWER FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD; HIS PART IN THEM - ALL EXPLAINED IN OTHER STUDIES ON THIS WEBSITE - Keith Hunt)
The Book of Hebrews confirms the inner Sanctuary as symbolic of the redemption wrought by Christ, "having therefore brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." (Heb. 10:19) In yet another sense, the Holy of Holies was a copy or "shadow" (Heb. 8:5) of "heaven." (Heb. 9:24)
THE GUARDIAN CHERUBIM
"And within the oracle he made two cherubim of olive tree, each ten cubits high.
And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other wing of the cherub: from the uttermost part of the one wing unto the uttermost part of the other were ten cubits.
And the other cherub was ten cubits: both the cherubims were of one measure and one size.
The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was it of the other cherub.
And he set the cherubims within the inner house: and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubims, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house.
And he overlaid the cherubims with gold-'" (I Kings 6:23-28)
One of the most difficult Biblical objects to illustrate is the Cherubim mentioned in connection with Solomon's Temple. Having no precise description of them, other than they represented certain "living creatures," (Ezek.1:5) artistic concepts have consequently produced a wide variety of impressions. Time was when "cherubim" were represented as being plump, winged infants or young females.
Today, influenced by the unique, "visionary" descriptions of the cherubim, found in the Book of Ezekiel, many Bible scholars have conceived them to be "hybred" creatures: part bird, part animal and part man.
Most attempts to reconstruct them, however, fail to accurately take into account Ezeliel's description of a cherubim, but are influenced rather by statues and portraits of the Assyrian winged bull or lion and the Egyptian winged sphinx. This has generally resulted in the cherubim being portrayed as a winged lion with a man's head.
It is debatable whether such interpretations are helpful, even as suggestions, where they fail to be supported by whatever Scriptural evidence we have. An inexpert viewer is likely to get a very wrong impression.
For this reason no illustrations will be presented, herein, of the two Guardian Cherubim that were placed in the Holy of Holies of Solomon's Temple.
Ezekiel saw in his vision, the Cherubim in a state of mystic animation and unity, which could not be realized in a static model, but which was nevertheless an intended portrayal of historical action.
"And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straightforward.
As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle." (Ezekiel 1:6-10)
It can be shown that Ezekiel's description of the four "cherubim" are symbolic of each of the four '"brigades'' of Israel, in the four-square Wilderness Camp. The four cherubim are described as each having four faces: lion, ox, man and eagle. These are found to be the emblems of the leading tribes. (Judah, Ephraim, Reuben and Dan )
Ezekiel further states the "four creatures" came out of the "north." (Ezek. 1:4) Since each face of the "man" is represented as seen in a front position and coming from the "north," the face (lion) on the right would be placed in the "east," the face (ox) on the left in the west, and the face (eagle) in the rear or the north.
These positions correspond perfectly with the positions assigned to the tribes of Judah, Ephraim, Reuben and Dan, in the Wilderness Camp.
THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
"And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.
And thou shall overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.
And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat." (Exod. 25:10,11,18)
The Ark of the Covenant was a small wooden box approximately 45" by 27" by 27" overlaid with gold. It had a dished lid and golden rings, one at each of its four corners, for two porter poles. It was originally the one made of acacia wood (Exod. 25:10) by Moses. The extended descriptions of the Ark are found in Exodus 25: vs. 10 to 22.
During the wilderness years of wandering, the porter poles were never removed from the Ark, whereas they were removed from all other furniture, when the camp rested. This symbolically indicated that any resting place of the Ark, during the forty years in the wilderness, was but temporary, until its destination was reached.
The two "cherubims" placed on top of the Ark, in keeping with the "cherubim" described by Ezekiel, symbolized all Israel, in perpetual remembrance, before the Throne of God.
The lid of the Ark, known as the "Mercy Seat," was made of "pure gold" and was annually sprinkled with the blood of a goat and of a bullock according to Lev. 16:14, 15. The interpretation of this act of the High Priest, can be found in the New Testament, in Heb. 9: 11 and 12. "But Christ, being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building, neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.''
Thus by employing symbols for the persons who were the nearest and furthest from God — Priests by the bullocks and heathens by the goats — the Temple ritual foreshadowed that, on behalf of all mankind, Christ entered once and for all time into the presence of the Throne of God, to effect our atonement. (Matt. 25:32-34)
The Ark was the symbolical seat of Yahveh's authority in the "Most Holy Place." The Manna and Aaron's rod deposited therein, during the period of the Wilderness Tabernacle, depicted the true "Bread of Life" who would come down from Heaven; the true "High Priest." Through the foreknowledge that this symbolism would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, in the True Tabernacle, those items were therefore not continued in the Temple of Solomon, which was a type of the Post-Resurrection Christian Era. (I Kings 8:9)
So, accordingly, there rested in the typical Temple only the Tablets of the Law, the typology of which has not yet been terminated by reason of fulfillment. For Christ says in Matt. 5:17,18, "think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
The Law was not made void by Christianity. (Rom. 3:31) It is written, in Romans, that we are not under the law but under "grace" (Rom. 6:15) but, the 23rd verse adds: "For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. " Since "death" has not been destroyed (I Cor. 15: 25, 26) it follows that "under grace" simply means that we are free from the condemnation or "curse" of the law. (Gal. 3:13)
THE SIDE CHAMBERS
"And against the wall of the house he built chambers round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the oracle: and he made chambers round about:
The nethermost chamber was five cubits broad, and the middle was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad: for without in the walls of the house he made narrowed rests round about, that the beams should not be fastened in the walls of the house.
The door for the middle chamber was in the right side of the house: and they went up with winding stairs into the middle chamber, and out of the middle into the third. " (I Kings 6:5,6,8)
The side chambers built all around the outside of the. building, except the Porch were arranged in three stories: the first 5 cubits broad, the second 6 cubits broad and the third 7 cubits broad, each being 5 cubits high.
Offsets in the main walls were made to accommodate supporting beams, so they need not be inserted into the main, walls, and the result was the increasing width of the stories.
Insufficient details are given in the Scriptures to fully understand the exact design or purpose of the rooms. Ezekiel, in translation, leaves the impression that there were thirty-three cubicles on each of the three floors; ninety-nine cubicles in all.
The entrance to the side chambers was on the "right side" of the building, which could mean either the north or the south side, depending on where the observer was standing. No windows are indicated in descriptions of the side chambers and whether the door opened from the inside or outside is a matter of debate. Access only from the interior main room has been suggested from their use as "treasure chambers" or "storage vaults" for priestly garments and equipment. In any case, I Kings 6:8 speaks of a door in the "right side of the house." This would indicate an exterior opening and would be logical, as a means of bringing supplies into the Temple "storage rooms" without profaning the Holy Place.
From the lowest floor of the side chambers there were "winding stairs" into the second level and out of the second into the third. Various efforts to translate the Hebrew phrase "winding stairs" have been made, but the precise meaning is still not clear. It refers to some means of getting from one story to the other.
Modern translations have given different interpretations for the King James words "winding stairs" "trap door" in Moffatt, "a circular trap door" in the Amer. Trans., and simply "stairs" in the RSV. Reconstructions naturally vary widely in this detail.
TO BE CONTINUED