Solomon's Temple

Solomon's Temple (Hebrew: בית המקדש, transliterated Beit HaMikdash), also known as the First Temple, was, according to the Bible, the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It functioned as a religious focal point for worship and the sacrifices known as the korbanot in ancient Judaism. Completed in the 10th century BCE, it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The reconstructed temple in Jerusalem, which stood between 515 BCE and 70 CE, was the Second Temple.

David's first action as king was to conquer Jerusalem and declare it the capital of his kingdom. Even though the city was not the perfect choice from many points of view, a geopolitical constraint dictated this choice.

According to Jewish tradition, Mount Moriah is an important place where Abraham bound Isaac (and some other important events happened, e.g., it was here where Jakob saw his vision of the angels moving on a ladder from Heaven to Earth), and thus the Temple had to be built here.

David conquered Jerusalem in approximately 1004 BC and made it a center of his government. He brought the Ark of the Covenant to the city. Jerusalem became the political and spiritual nexus of the Jewish people. King David was instructed not to build the Temple, leaving the task to his son Solomon. The concentration of religious ritual at the Temple made Jerusalem a place of pilgrimage and an important commercial center.

The city served as the first capital of the kingdom of Israel, but became the capital of the kingdom of Judah after the death of Solomon. It regained its central status after the conquest and destruction of the northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC.

It was in Jerusalem where most of the great prophets were writing, articulating spiritual and ethical principles that would transcend the city's narrow confines to become pillars of the Jewish spirit. In 586 BC the city was invaded by the Babylonians.

At the order of Nebuchadnezzar, their king, the city was torched, the Temple was razed, and the people were taken into exile.

A small number returned from the 50 years later. This was the first exile of the Jewish nation.

Before his death King David had provided materials in great abundance for the building of the temple on the summit of Mount Moriah (1 Chronicles 22:14; 29:4; 2 Chronicles 3:1), where he had purchased a threshing floor from Araunah the Jebusite (2 Sam. 24:21 et seq.), on which he offered sacrifice. The Bible states that in the beginning of his reign, King Solomon of the united Kingdom of Israel, set about giving effect to the ideas of his father, and prepared additional materials for the building. From subterranean quarries at Jerusalem he obtained huge blocks of stone for the foundations and walls of the temple. These stones were prepared for their places in the building under the eye of Tyrian master-builders. According to this account, Solomon also entered into a pact with Hiram I, king of Tyre, for the supply of whatever else was needed for the work, particularly timber from the forests of Lebanon, which was brought in great rafts by the sea to Joppa, whence it was dragged to Jerusalem (1 Kings 5).

According to the Septuagint, to Aristeas, to the Tractate Yoma, and according to the archaeological explorations of the rocky underground of the Haram conducted by the 19th century archaeologists, Solomon also provided for a sufficient water supply for the Temple by having hewn, in the underground rock of the ancient Jewish Citadel (nowadays Haram) dominating and protecting the Temple, vast cisterns, into which living purifying waters were conveyed by an Aqueduct (called Aqueduct of Etam, or Aqueduct of Solomon, or ancient Aqueduct) originating from the Etam sources and flowing into "the Solomon Pools" near Bethlehem. These Solomon Pools collected and stored, thus, upstream 400 millions liters of purifying waters. One of the (Haram) underground cisterns dug by Solomon upstream of the Temple platform, Cistern n°8, according to the numeration established by Charles Warren (19th century archaeologist), the cistern called the "Great Sea" (Septuagint), was (and still is) capable of containing twelve million liters.

These underground cisterns of the ancient Jewish citadel provided, solely by gravity and through appropriate underground channels, the source waters needed in the sanctuary mikvahs and brazen laver, for all the exacting rites of purification prescribed by Jewish scripture:

The sanctuary stood, therefore, downstream of these underground cisterns, on a platform which was later destroyed by Emperor Hadrian, after the crushing of the last revolt of the Jews, led by Bar Kochba and Rabbi Akiva (the main architect of the Mishnah) in their last attempt to rebuild the Temple in 135.

According to 1 Chronicles 22:14, David had bequeathed to Solomon an accumulated wealth of 100,000 talents of gold and 1,000,000 talents of silver as financial resources towards the construction of the temple. He also gave him plans for many parts of the Temple and the articles used in it. (1 Chronicles 28:11-19) The construction of the Temple is described in the Book of Kings: The preparatory undertakings for the construction took about three years.

The process of the erection of the great building began, under the direction of architects, Levites, and skilled Phoenician builders and workmen, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign. Many, especially woodden materials came from the king of Zor, Chiram, who hailed the Jewish god. One of the most important architects was Chiram, a Jew from Zor. [Kings 1, 7, 13-14]

The building followed the model of Moses' Tabernacle. Traditional Judaism regards the dimensions and proportions of both the Tabernacle and Temple, prescribed by the Bible, as matters of Halakha, religious Law. The dimensions of Herod's Temple are presented extensively in the Mishnah tractate Middoth; the dimensions of Solomon's Temple are not presented in the Mishnah.

To this specific religious Jewish architecture, Solomon added a Syrian architectural concept that he borrowed from the pagan temple of Ain Dara, with its two columns supporting the porch and its annex surrounding the pagan temple (see archaeology study of Ain Dara temple).

Many thousands of labourers and skilled artisans were employed in the work. Some of them were non-Israelite slaves—survivors of the wars of conquest in Canaan:

This was the purpose of the forced labor that King Solomon imposed: It was to build the House of the Lord ... All the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who were not of the Israelite stock—those of their descendants who remained in the land and whom the Israelites were not able to annihilate—of these Solomon made a slave force, as is still the case. But he did not reduce any Israelites to slavery ... –I Kings 9:15-22a (1985 Jewish Publication Society Tanakh translation)

Stones prepared in the quarries underneath the city (1 Kings 5:17, 18) of huge dimension were gradually placed on the massive walls, and closely fitted together without any mortar between, till the whole structure was completed.

At length, in the Autumn of the eleventh year of his reign, seven and a half years after it had been begun, the temple was completed. The Temple remained empty for only eleven months, until the month of Tishri in the year following its completion. Thus the Temple was dedicated at the autumnal new-year festival.

According to biblical tradition, the Ark of the Covenant was solemnly brought from the tent in which David had deposited it to the place prepared for it in the temple. Then Solomon ascended a platform which had been erected for him, in the sight of all the people, and lifting up his hands to heaven poured out his heart to God in prayer (1 Kings 8; 2 Chr. 6, 7). The feast of dedication, which lasted seven days, followed by the feast of tabernacles, marked a new era in the history of Israel. On the eighth day of the feast of tabernacles, Solomon dismissed the vast assemblage of the people. The Ark of the Covenant was also kept in a room called the sanctuary where on the priest can only enter.

No remains of the First Temple have been found. The only remains from the relevant period known are the recently discovered remains taken from refuse from an extensive construction project performed on the Temple Mount by the Islamic Wakf in November of 1999. It is not, however, clear whether these remains contain evidence of a Temple structure from this period. The detailed descriptions provided in the Tanakh and educated guesses based on the remains of other temples in the region are the sources for reconstructions of its appearance. Technical details are lacking, since the scribes who wrote the books were not architects or engineers. Reconstructions differ; the following enumeration is largely based on Easton's Bible Dictionary and the Jewish Encyclopedia:

1. The Kadosh Kadoshim, the Temple's Most Holy Place (1 Kings 6:19; 8:6), called also the "inner house" (6:27), and the "Holy of Holies" (Heb. 9:3). It was 20 cubits in length, breadth, and height. The usual explanation for the discrepancy between its height and the 30-cubit height of the temple is that its floor was elevated, like the cella of other ancient temples. It was floored and wainscotted with Cedar of Lebanon (1 Kings 6:16), and its walls and floor were overlaid with gold (6:20, 21, 30). It contained two cherubim of olive-wood, each 10 cubits high (1 Kings 6:16, 20, 21, 23-28) and each having outspread wings 10 cubits from tip to tip, so that, since they stood side by side, the wings touched the wall on either side and met in the center of the room. There was a two-leaved door between it and the holy place overlaid with gold (2 Chr. 4:22); also a veil of blue purple and crimson and fine linen (2 Chr. 3:14; compare Exodus 26:33). It had no windows (1 Kings 8:12). It was considered the dwelling-place of God.
2. The Hekhal: the holy place, 1 Kings 8:8-10, called also the "greater house" (2 Chr. 3:5) and the "temple" (1 Kings 6:17); the word also means "palace". It was of the same width and height as the Holy of Holies, but 40 cubits in length. Its walls were lined with cedar, on which were carved figures of cherubim, palm-trees, and open flowers, which were overlaid with gold. Chains of gold further marked it off from the Holy of Holies. The floor of the Temple was of fir-wood overlaid with gold. The door-posts, of olive-wood, supported folding-doors of fir. The doors of the Holy of Holies were of olive-wood. On both sets of doors were carved cherubim, palm-trees, and flowers, all being overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:15 et seq.)
3. The Ulam: the porch or entrance before the temple on the east (1 Kings 6:3; 2 Chr. 3:4; 9:7). This was 20 cubits long (corresponding to the width of the Temple) and 10 cubits deep (1 Kings 6:3). 2 Chr. 3:4 adds the curious statement (probably corrupted from the statement of the depth of the porch) that this porch was 120 cubits high, which would make it a regular tower. The description does not specify whether a wall separated it from the next chamber. In the porch stood the two pillars Jachin and Boaz (1 Kings 7:21; 2 Kings 11:14; 23:3), which were 18 cubits in height and surmounted by capitals of carved lilies, 5 cubits high.
4. The chambers, which were built about the temple on the southern, western, and northern sides (1 Kings 6:5-10). These formed a part of the building and were used for storage. They were probably one story high at first; two more may have been added later.

According to biblical tradition, round about the building were:

1. The court of the priests (2 Chr. 4:9), called the "inner court" (1 Kings 6:36), which was separated from the space beyond by a wall of three courses of hewn stone, surmounted by cedar beams (1 Kings 6:36).
2. The great court, which surrounded the whole temple (2 Chr. 4:9). Here the people assembled to worship God (Jeremiah 19:14; 26:2).

The inner court of the Priests contained the Altar of burnt-offering (2 Chr. 15:8), the brazen Sea (4:2-5, 10), and ten lavers (1 Kings 7:38, 39). From 2 Kings 16:14 it is learned that a brazen altar stood before the Temple; 2 Chr. 4:1 gives its dimensions as 20 cubits square and 10 cubits high.

The brazen Sea (Laver), 5 meters wide, 2.5 meters deep and with a circumference of 15 meters, rested on the backs of twelve oxen (1 Kings 7:23-26). The Book of Kings gives its capacity as "2,000 baths" (80,000 liters); the Chronicler inflates this to three thousand baths (120,000 liters) (2 Chr. 4:5-6) and states that its purpose was to afford opportunity for the purification by immersion of the body of the priests (in everflowing living source Waters). (According to Talmud tractate Mikwaoth, a "bath" of 40 seahs is the minimum permissible size for a Mikvah).

The lavers, each of which held "forty baths" (1 Kings 7:38), rested on portable holders made of bronze, provided with wheels, and ornamented with figures of lions, cherubim, and palm-trees. These vessels especially excited the admiration of the Jews. The author of the books of the Kings describes their minute details with great interest (1 Kings 7:27-37). Josephus reported that the vessels in the Temple were composed of Orichalcum in the Antiquities of the Jews. According to 1 Kings 7:48 there stood before the Holy of Holies a golden altar of incense and a table for showbread. This table was of gold, as were also the five candlesticks on each side of it. The implements for the care of the candles—tongs, basins, snuffers, and fire-pans—were of gold; and so were the hinges of the doors.

The Temple was situated upon the more easterly of the two hills which form the site of the present-day Temple Mount, in the center of which area is the Dome of the Rock. Under the Jebusites the site was used as a threshing floor. 2 Sam. 24 describes its consecration during David's reign.

Two slightly different sites for the Temple have been proposed: one places the bronze altar on the rock which is now beneath the gilded dome, with the rest of the temple to the west; the Well of Souls was, in this theory, a pit for the remnants of the korbanot. The slope of the terrain in this area would require massive supporting structures for the Temple, what Easton's Bible Dictionary describes as "a huge wall of solid masonry of great height, in some places more than 200 ft (60 m) high… raised across the south of the hill, and a similar wall on the eastern side, and in the spaces between… many arches and pillars… " The other places the Holy of Holies atop this rock, thus explaining its elevation.

The Temple has recognizable similarities to other temples of its time and region. Syro-Phoenician, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian influences are visible. A plaza or courtyard surrounding the sacred residence of the god, marked with stones, is a feature common throughout ancient Semitic religions. Earlier evidence of this practice among the Hebrews survives in the twelve stones that Joshua placed at Gilgal (Joshua 4:20) and the marking of Mount Sinai by Moses (Ex. 19:12), and in the forbidden zone surrounding the tent which was the predecessor of the Temple. Even today the Muslims designate certain areas, especially that surrounding Mecca, as inviolate haram.

The Biblical text makes it clear that Solomon received aid from Hiram, the King of Tyre, in the construction of his buildings. This aid involved not only material (cedar-wood, etc.), but architectural direction and skilled craftsmen. Amongst them was the coppersmith Hiram (the son of a Tyrian father and Israelite mother, not to be confused with the king). Its tripartite division is similar to that found in 13th century BCE temples at Alalakh in Syria and Hazor in the upper Galilee; a 9th century BCE temple at Tell Tayinat also follows this plan. Phoenician temples varied somewhat in form, but were similarly surrounded by courts.

Among the details which were probably copied from Tyre were the two pillars Jachin and Boaz. Herodotus (ii. 44) says that the temple at Tyre contained two such, one of emerald and the other of fine gold. In the same way the ornamentation of palm trees and cherubim were probably derived from Tyre, for Ezekiel (28:13, 14) represents the King of Tyre, who was high priest also, as being in the "garden of God." Probably both at Tyre and at Jerusalem the cherubim and palm-tree ornaments were survivals of an earlier conception—that the abode of God was a "garden of Eden." The Tyrians, therefore, in their temple imitated to some extent the primitive garden, and Solomon borrowed these features.

Similarly, the bronze altar was a Phoenician innovation; and probably the same is true of the bronze implements which were ornamented with palm-trees and cherubim. The Orthodox Israelitish altar was of earth or unhewn stone. The Decalogue of Ex. 20 prohibited the making of graven images, while that of Ex. 34 prohibited the making of molten gods; and the Deuteronomic expansions prohibited the making of any likeness whatever. All these are, to be sure, later than Solomon's time; but there is no reason to believe that before that time the Hebrews had either the skill or the wealth necessary to produce ornamentation of this kind.

Several temples in Mesopotamia, many in Egypt, and some of the Phoenicians are now known. In Babylonia the characteristic feature was a ziggurat, or terraced tower, evidently intended to imitate the mountains on which the gods resided. The chamber for the divine dwelling was at its top. The early Egyptian temples consisted of buildings containing two or three rooms, the innermost of which was the abode of the deity. A good example is the granite temple near the sphinx at Giza. The Middle Kingdom (12th dynasty) added obelisks and pylons, and the New Kingdom (18th dynasty) hypostyle halls. Solomon's Temple was not a copy of any of these, nor of the Phoenician buildings, but embodied features derived from all of them. It was on the summit of a hill, like the altar of Ba'al on Mount Carmel and the sanctuaries of Mount Hermon, and like the Babylonian idea of the divine abode. It was surrounded by courts, like the Phoenician temples and the splendid temple of Der al-Bakri at Thebes. Its general form reminds one of Egyptian sanctuaries and closely matches that of other temples in the region, as described above.

The two pillars Jachin and Boaz had their parallel not only at Tyre but at Byblos, Paphos, and Telloh. In Egypt the obelisks expressed the same idea. The Jewish Encyclopedia stated that "All these were phallic emblems, being survivals of the primitive Hamito-Semitic 'maẓẓebah'", Jachin and Boaz were really isolated columns, as Schick has shown, and not, as some have supposed, a part of the ornamentation of the building. Their tops were crowned with ornamentation as if they were lamps; and W. R. Smith supposed (l.c. p. 488) that they may have been used as fire-altars. This assumes that they contained cressets for burning the fat.

The chambers which surrounded the Holy Place in Solomon's Temple are said in 1 Chr. 28:12 to have been storehouses for the sacred treasure. These are paralleled in Babylonian and Egyptian temples by similar chambers, which surrounded the naos, or hypostyle hall, and were used for similar purposes. The "molten sea" finds its parallel in Babylonian temples in a great basin called the "apsu" ('deep'). As the ziggurat typified a mountain, so the apsu typified the sea. The Temple thus became a miniature world. This apsu was used as early as the time of Gudea and continued in use till the end of Babylonian history; it was made of stone and was elaborately decorated. In Solomon's Temple there was nothing to correspond to the hypostyle hall of an Egyptian temple; but this feature was introduced into Solomon's palace. The "house of the forest of Lebanon" and the "porch of pillars" remind one strongly of the outer and the inner hypostyle hall of an Egyptian temple.

According to the Bible, the temple was pillaged many times during the course of its history (dates before Ahaz are approximate):

1. by king Shishak of Egypt, c.925 BCE (1 Kings 14:25, 26);
2. by king Asa of Judah, c.900 BCE in order to persuade Ben-Hadad I of Damascus to come to his aid against Baasha of Israel (1 Kings 15:9-24);
3. by king Jehoash of Judah, c. 825 BCE, in order to pay Hazael of Damascus, who was besieging the city (2 Kings 12:17-18);
4. by king Joash of Israel, c.790 BCE (2 Kings 14:14);
5. by king Ahaz of Judah, 734 BCE, to persuade Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria to come to his aid against Pekah of Israel and Rezin II of Damascus (2 Kings 16:8, 17, 18);
6. by king Hezekiah of Judah, 701 BCE, to pay king Sennacherib of Assyria, who was besieging the city (2 Kings 18:15, 16).
7. by king Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon who pillaged it twice- once in 597 BCE, and again in 586 BCE, after which he destroyed it (2 Kings 24:13; 2 Chr. 36:7). He burned the temple, and carried all its treasures with him to Babylon (2 Kings 25:9-17; 2 Chr. 36:19; Isaiah 64:11).

These sacred vessels were, at the end of the Babylonian Captivity, restored to the Jews by Cyrus in 538 BCE (Ezra 1:7-11).

On December 27, 2004 it was reported that the Israel Museum in Jerusalem has alleged that the ivory pomegranate that some scholars believed had once adorned a sceptre used by the high priest in Solomon's Temple may not be related to the Temple. This artifact was the most important item of biblical antiquities in its collection; it had been part of a travelling exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in 2003. The report described the thumb-sized pomegranate, which is a mere 44 millimetres in height, as being inscribed "... with ancient Hebrew letters said to spell out the words "Sacred donation for the priests in the House of YHVH." The Israel Museum now believes that the artifact actually dates back to the 14th or 13th century BCE, and that the inscription is modern. Experts fear that this discovery is part of an international fraud in antiquities; Israeli authorities have charged five people.

Modern temple architecture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has influences from Solomon's Temple. Each of the 124 operating temples has a baptismal font which is supported by 12 oxen patterned after the brazen Sea described in 1 Kings 7:23-26. Three of the church's early temples exteriors were patterned loosely on the design of Solomon's Temple. The Layout of Masonic Lodges are also based on the layout of King Solomon's Temple.

Major sites and places of the First Temple period includes:

* The City of David
* Mount Moriah
* Area G
* Hinnom Flank
* The Braod Wall
* Siloam Inscription & Hezekiah,s Tunnel
* Warren’s Shaft

The most prominent personalities of the First Temple period included King David, King Solomon, the Prophet Isaiah, King Hezekiah, and the Prophet Jeremiah.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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