Solomon’s Temple – Part 1

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When King David wanted to build a house for God’s name, a permanent resting place for the ark,1 Jehovah revealed to him a full blueprint of the structure of the temple, its surrounding courts and furniture, as well as instructions detailing the courses of the priests, 1 Chr. 28. 11-19. But, because David was a man of war, God chose Solomon to build the temple.2

Appreciating the enormity of the task ahead of his son, David prepared with all his might ‘abundantly before his death’, 1 Chr. 22. 5; 29. 2, dedicating to the Lord a combination of military spoils and gifts offered by mostly subjugated Gentile nations.3 He took golden shields and vast quantities of brass from Hadarezar King of Zobah, 2 Sam. 8. 7, 8; 1 Chr. 18. 7, 8, and amassed 100,000 talents of gold, one million talents of silver, brass, iron, timber, ‘onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colours, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance’, 1 Chr. 22. 2-5, 14; 29. 2-5.

Beginning in the fourth year of his reign, 480 years after the Exodus, Solomon took seven years to build the temple,4 erecting it on Mount Moriah, Gen. 22. 2; 2 Chr. 3.1, and on the site of Ornan’s threshing floor, where David had offered a sacrifice to arrest God’s judgement.5

The house

The main temple structure was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits broad and thirty cubits high.6 High in its walls were windows large enough to let light in, but narrow enough to possibly prevent intruders, 1 Kgs. 6. 4. Without noise or dust, each carefully prepared stone was slotted into its place, v. 7. Inside, ‘from the floor … to the ceiling’ the walls were completely panelled with cedar boards.7 After the cedar panelling was carved with ‘gourds and open flowers’, 1 Kgs. 6. 18, 29, NASB, it was covered with 3,000 talents of gold.8 This gold may have been in the form of thin plates, engraved with palm trees, chains, open flowers, and cherubim, which were nailed to the underlying cedar wood with fifty shekels weight of golden nails, and then garnished with precious stones.9 It is unclear how the 7,000 talents of silver devoted to the walls was used, 1 Chr. 29. 4. Gold-covered fir-planking formed the floor, 1 Kgs. 6. 15, 30, the roof being made of ‘beams and boards of cedar’, v. 9.

The oracle

The house subdivided into two sections: the oracle and the greater house. A twenty-cubit cedar cube, lined with 600 talents of gold, 2 Chr. 3. 8, was called ‘the oracle’ [debir, ‘innermost part of the sanctuary’],10 1 Kgs. 6. 5, 16, 19, 20, ‘the inner house’, v. 27, ‘the place of the mercy seat’, 1 Chr. 28. 11, and ‘the most holy house’, 2 Chr. 3. 8. The ten cubits, unaccounted for in the oracle’s height, may have accommodated the ‘upper chambers’ which were also lined with gold, v. 9. The Ark of the Covenant, only containing ‘the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb’, 1 Kgs. 8. 9, was placed within the oracle,11 its long staves not being removed, cp. Exod. 25. 12-15, as the KJV infers, but visible ‘from the holy place before the oracle’, 1 Kgs. 8. 8 JND. Above it, ‘facing the main room’ like sentries,12 stood two ten-cubit high cherubim, sculptured in olive wood and overlaid with gold. Their five-feet long wings extended from one wall to the other, meeting midway.13 Together they were called ‘the chariot of the cherubim’, 1 Chr. 28. 18.

The greater house

The main hall was forty cubits long, termed ‘the temple [heykal, a large public building]’, 1 Kgs. 6. 5, 17, and ‘the greater house’, 2 Chr. 3. 5. The oracle was separated from it by its gold-covered cedar wall containing two olive wood, gold-plated doors, which hung on golden hinges and were decorated with cherubim, palm trees and open flowers.14 In front of these doors were golden chains, 1 Kgs. 6. 21, and a veil, made of ‘blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon’, 2 Chr. 3. 14. This triple barrier made it clear that the holiest remained mostly inaccessible. Immediately beyond the veil was the cedar wood, gold-covered altar,15 upon which King Uzziah attempted to burn incense, 2 Chr. 26. 16-18. Five golden lampstands, each ornamented with flowers16 and five golden shewbread tables lined the right and left sides.17

The chambers

Adjoining the main structure were three-tiered, five-cubit high chambers. The lower chambers were five cubits broad, the middle six and the upper ones seven, their cedar wood ceilings and floors resting on buttressed shelving, which avoided damaging the main temple walls, 1 Kgs. 6. 5, 6, 10.

These chambers were accessed through a door on the right side of the main temple, a winding staircase joining the three levels, v. 8. The silver tables and lampstands may have been used in these chambers, 1 Chr. 28. 15, 16.18 There were also chambers within the walls of the inner court. Although not explicitly detailed, it seems that these chambers together served multiple functions.

The wealth of the royal family, money dedicated to the temple, and trespass money (which belonged to the priests) was stored in them,19 as was the food tithes for the priests, 2 Chr. 31. 4-14. David’s spears and shields, the tabernacle and its holy vessels, as well as those vessels which were in active use were all kept in these chambers.20 Singing Levites ‘remained in the chambers’, 1 Chr. 9. 33, and Levite temple porters ‘lodged round about the house of God’, vv. 17-27, perhaps in the chambers. Joash was hidden from Athaliah in a bedchamber in the house of the Lord.21 At the beginning of Josiah’s rule they found a copy of the Law of God in the temple, perhaps in a chamber, 2 Chr. 34. 8-15. Important meetings took place in these chambers, many of which were either claimed by or allocated to individuals or groups.22 In Ezekiel’s day, Judah’s elders worshipped idols in a chamber next to ‘the door of the court’, Ezek. 8. 7-13.

The porch

The main temple doors were bi-folding, made of fir trees and carved with cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. They were gold-covered, hanging on olive tree posts.23 Projecting ten cubits in front of the house was a twenty-cubit porch, probably twenty cubits high, 1 Kgs. 6. 3; 2 Chr. 3. 4.24 This entrance porch was overlaid within with pure gold. Its steps - ‘pillars’, 1 Kgs. 10. 12; 2 Chr. 9. 11, translates the Hebrew word mis‘ad, meaning steps25 - were made of almug wood, which was ‘probably red sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus) imported from India (Ophir) … [which] wears well as a tread’.26

The two brazen pillars27

At the entrance to the porch stood two brazen pillars, named Jachin (‘he will establish’) and Boaz (‘in him is strength’), 1 Kgs. 7. 21. Hiram seems to have cast a four-finger thick, twelve-cubit in circumference and thirty-five-cubit long cylinder, which he then bisected. If each half was raised onto a half cubit base, they would be eighteen cubits tall. Their hollow ‘heads’, 2 Chr. 3. 16, or chapiters28 were five cubits high, the top four cubits being of ‘lily-work after the manner of the hall’, 1 Kgs. 7. 19.29 Each head was covered with ‘nets of network’, v. 17, over which were two rows of one hundred pomegranates connected by a chain30 and closely linked to seven ‘twisted threads of chain work’, v. 17 NASB. Joash stood by one of these pillars when he was anointed king, armed guards standing in front of the temple from right to left by the brazen altar, 2 Kgs. 11. 11; 2 Chr. 23. 10-13, the courts being filled with people, 2 Chr. 23. 5.

BIBLE MEASURES31
Hebrew measure Metric equivalent
Cubit (‘ammah) 45 centimetres
Bath (bath) 22 litres
Shekel (sheqel) 12 grammes
Talent (kikar) 36 kilogrammes

Endnotes

1

2 Sam. 7.1,2; 1 Chr. 17.1; 22.7; 28.2.

2

2 Sam. 7.12,13; 1 Chr. 17.10-14; 22. 8-10; 28. 3, 6.

3

2 Sam. 8. 2-12; 12. 30; 1 Chr. 18. 2-11; 20.2.

4

1 Kgs. 5.17; 6.1, 37, 38; 2 Chr. 3.1,2.

5

2 Sam. 24; 1 Chr. 21; 2 Chr. 3.1, 2.

6

1 Kgs. 6. 2; 2 Chr. 3. 3.

7

1 Kgs. 6.15,18; 2 Chr. 3. 5 NASB.

8

1 Kgs. 6. 21, 22; 1 Chr. 29. 4.

9

2 Chr. 3.5-7, 9; cp. 1 Chr. 29. 2, 8.

10

J. STRONG, A concise dictionary of the words in the Hebrew Bible; with their rendering in the authorized English version, Hendrickson Publishers, pg. 29.

11

1 Kgs. 6.19; 8.1-11; 2 Chr. 1. 4; 5. 2-14.

12

2 Chr. 3.13 NASB.

13

1 Kgs. 6. 23-28; 1 Chr. 28.18; 2 Chr. 3. 10-13.

14

1 Kgs. 6. 31, 32; 7. 50; 2 Chr. 4. 22.

15

1 Kgs. 6. 20, 22; 7.48; 1 Chr. 28.18; 2 Chr. 4.19.

16

1 Kgs. 7.49; 2 Chr. 4. 7, 20-22.

17

1 Kgs 7. 48; 2 Chr. 4. 8,19.

18

T. NEWBERRY, Solomon’s Temple and its Teaching, John Ritchie Ltd, Reprint 2009, pp. 61, 62, 64.

19

1 Kgs. 7. 51; 14. 25, 26; 15.15,18,19; 2 Kgs. 12. 4, 9,10,16-18; 22. 3, 4; 2 Chr. 5. 1; 12. 9; 15.18; 16. 2; 24. 8,11; 28. 21; 34. 8-15; cp. 1 Chr. 28.11.

20

2 Kgs. 11.10; 2 Chr. 23. 9; 1 Kgs. 8. 4; 1 Chr. 9.28.

21

2 Kgs. 11. 2, 3; 2 Chr. 22.11,12.

22

2 Kgs. 23.11; Jer. 35. 3, 4; 36.10, 20, 21.

23

1 Kgs. 6. 33-35; 2 Chr. 4. 22.

24

C. F. KEIL and F. DELITZSCH, Commentary on the Old Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, 1996, Volume 3, pg. 586.

25

R. L. HARRIS, G. L. ARCHER, B. K. WALTKE, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Publishers, 1980, pg. 629.

26

J. EVANS, God’s Trees, Day One Publications, 2015, pg. 64.

27

1 Kgs. 7.15-22, 41, 42; 2 Kgs. 25.17; 2 Chr. 3.15-17; 4.12,13; Jer. 52. 21-23.

28

Described as a ‘belly’ [beten, ‘denotes the “lower abdomen’” C. F. KEIL and F. DELITZSCH, op. cit. pg. 71], 1 Kgs. 7.20, or ‘bowls’, v. 41, or ‘pommels, gullah’ KJV, or ‘globes’ JND in 2 Chr. 4.12.

29

C. F. KEIL and F. DELITZSCH, op. cit., Pg- 71.

30

1 Kgs. 7.18, 20, 41, 42; 2 Chr. 3.16; 4. 12,13; Jer. 52. 23.

31

PETER SCHMIDT, Biblical Measures and their Translation: Notes on Translating Biblical Units of Length, Area, Capacity, Weight, Money and Time, SIL Electronic Working Papers, February 2014.

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