Chapter 2 Section C
The actual work of construction was begun in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, and the Temple was ready for dedication in the twelfth, or about 1005 B. C. At the inception of the labor, Solomon entered into an agreement with Hiram, a neighboring king, whereby the resources of Tyre and Sidon were annexed in the great undertaking. Through this alliance the splendid forests of Lebanon were made accessible; cedar, and fir, and other trees were felled and floated by the thousand to the most convenient point for land transportation to Jerusalem. It had been previously explained to Hiram that the demand would be a heavy one, for, as Solomon had said: “The house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods.” Sidonian hewers were put to work,-the most skilful of all known woodmen; and the timbers of Lebanon were supplied in abundance. The extent of the demand may be judged from the enormous payment proffered and made by Solomon.
Israelitish workmen were employed in great numbers, both in co-operation with the Sidonians and at home. Thus we read:
“And King Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men.
“And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses: a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home: and Adoniram was over the levy.
“And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains;
“Beside the chief of Solomon’s officers which were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work.
“And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house.
“And Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house.”
For the successful employment of such great numbers of workmen an effective system of organization was necessary; we are not surprised, therefore, in reading that thirty-three hundred overseers were in service. The efficiency of the system is attested by the success attending the great undertaking. The Israelites and the men of Tyre and Sidon worked in harmony, and much of the building material was shaped by pattern and measurement in forest and quarry; therefore “the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither; so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.”
Our primary source of information relating to the erection of the great Temple is the scriptural record contained in I Kings, chapters 6 and 7; a later account appears in II Chronicles, chapter 3 and 4, which account as well as the description given by Josephus appears to have been derived from the record first cited.
In general, the design of Solomon’s Temple was that of the specially constructed Tabernacle of the Congregation, though the dimensions of the Temple were double those of the Tabernacle. It will be remembered that the porch of the Tabernacle was five cubits deep; that of the Temple measured ten cubits in depth; in each case the porch extended across the full width of the house. The Holy Place, or first compartment within the walls, was twenty cubits long, ten cubits wide and ten high in the Tabernacle; that of the Temple was forty by twenty cubits and twenty cubits high. The inner sanctuary, Oracle, or Holy of Holies, in the Tabernacle was cubical and measured ten cubits each way; in the Temple this sacred enclosure was a cube of twenty cubits. Thus the ground plan of the Tabernacle covered thirty-five by twenty cubits, and that of the Temple seventy cubits by forty. These measurements do not take into account the side chambers, which in the Tabernacle were five cubits wide; those connected with the Temple measured ten cubits in extreme width; with these included, the entire area of the Tabernacle was forty by twenty cubits, and that of the Temple eighty by forty cubits; or, at the usually accepted equivalent for the cubit, sixty by thirty feet for the Tabernacle, and one hundred and twenty feet by sixty feet for the Temple. In height the same relation was maintained; the Tabernacle rose fifteen cubits and the Temple thirty cubits. The Temple porch appears to have towered above the height of the main structure.
In the porch, standing as a guard at the threshold of the Temple, were two brazen pillars, of elaborate design, and doubtless of emblematical significance. They were regarded as of such importance as to merit detailed description, and the name of their maker was inscribed in the Temple archives. They were wrought by Hiram of Tyre,-not the king who bore the same name-but a master-artisan, skilled in the working of brass. Hiram fashioned the pillars, each twelve cubits in circumference and eighteen cubits high exclusive of the massive chapiters, which were ornamented with pomegranates and lily work. The pillar at the right of the entrance was named Jachin, meaning “He shall establish,” and that at the left was called Boaz, signifying “In it is strength.” Whatever deeper meaning may have been attached to these massive columns, their suggestive symbolism of strength and firmness is plainly apparent. As to whether they actually supported the roof of the porch, or were free, standing as embellishments and symbols alone, the scriptural text is not definite.
The walls of the great Temple were of hewn stone, yet on the inside no stone was visible; for the walls were wainscotted from floor to ceiling with cedar, richly decorated with carvings of flowers, trees, and other designs, and the flooring was of fir. Moreover, the interior was richly embellished with overlaid work in pure gold. The partition by which the Oracle or Holy of Holies was divided off, corresponding to the veil in the Tabernacle, was thus overlaid, and was hung with chains of gold. The cherubim that stood as the symbol of guardianship over the Oracle were of olive wood, covered with gold, the precious metal being fitted upon the carved work.
The vestibule or porch stood at the east end; and this constituted the only entrance to the Temple proper. On the other three sides, therefore surrounding both the Holy Place and the Oracle, were numerous small chambers, built in three tiers or stories. The width of these was five cubits in the lowest story, six cubits in the middle, and seven cubits in the top story; this peculiarity in width increasing with height was made possible by the decrease in the thickness of the walls. By this rebatement of the walls, the cedarn chambers were well supported yet they formed no part of the main structure; it was so designed “that the beams should not be fastened in the walls of the house.” These small apartments were therefore “chambers round about, against the walls of the house,” yet of independent construction. From the mention made by Ezekiel these chambers are supposed to have numbered thirty, though no precise specification is found. They were probably used for service required of the priests aside from the ceremonial labor connected with the general ritual. Entrance to these chambers was provided on the right side of the building with winding stairs leading to the upper rooms. Above the level of the upper chambers were windows by which the outer apartment or Holy Place was lighted; the Holy of Holies, however, was without natural light.
The furniture within the Temple comprised but few objects, yet every piece was of special design and for exclusive use. In the Holy Place stood the table, or a series of tables to bear the sacred shew-bread. Mention is made also of an altar of gold, and of ten candlesticks of pure gold set in front of the entrance to the Oracle, five on either side; furthermore there were tongs of gold, bowls and snuffers, basins and spoons. The Oracle was prepared for the reception of the Ark of the Covenant, and to overshadow that holy vessel there were prepared the two great cherubim, each ten cubits high; these were of olive wood overlaid with gold.
The Temple stood within walled enclosures, generally spoken of as outer and inner courts respectively. The wall of the inner court is described as consisting of three courses of hewn stone, in which was set a course of cedar beams. This corresponded to the single enclosure of the ancient Tabernacle. Inasmuch as all the specified measurements show the Temple to have been double the size of the Tabernacle, this court may have been of corresponding proportion; it is therefore generally believed to have extended one hundred cubits north and south and two hundred cubits east and west.
Within the court, “before the porch of the Lord” stood the altar of sacrifice. This was of brass twenty cubits square and ten cubits high. To the service of the altar belonged many of the utensils such as basins, pots, and shovels, specially made under the direction of the master craftsman, Hiram of Tyre. Another prominent object within the court was the molten sea, called also the brazen sea. This great font measured thirty cubits in circumference and stood five cubits high, and was richly ornamented. The walls were a hand-breadth in thickness, and the brim was embellished with flower work. It was mounted on twelve brazen oxen, arranged in groups of three, the groups facing respectively north, south, east and west. The great font stood between the altar and the porch “on the right side of the house, eastward, over against the south.” Associated with the molten sea were ten smaller vessels called lavers, mounted on bases of special construction and provided with wheels to facilitate removal. The lavers were used in connection with the service of the altar, for the washing of the offerings; but the main font or molten sea was reserved for the ceremonial cleansing of the priests.
When the House of the Lord was completed, elaborate preparations were made for its dedication. First came the installation of the Ark of the Covenant and its appurtenances, the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and the holy vessels. With great solemnity and to the accompaniment of ceremonial sacrifice, the Ark was brought by the priests and placed within the Holy of Holies beneath the wings of the cherubim. At this time the Ark contained only the two tables of stone “which Moses put there.” The staves by which the Ark was borne were so drawn out as to be visible from within the Holy Place, and then “it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.”
Then Solomon addressed the assembled multitude, reciting the circumstances under which the building of the Temple had been conceived by his father David and executed by himself, and proclaiming the mercy and goodness of Israel’s God. Standing before the altar of the Lord, in the court of the Temple, the king spread forth his hands toward heaven, and offered the dedicatory prayer. The king then blessed the people, saying “Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant. The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us.”
The principal services with the attendant festivities lasted seven days, and “on the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people.”
For only a third of a century did this splendid edifice maintain its supremacy and glory. In the later years of his reign Solomon had done wickedly in the sight of God and the people had not been slow to follow their king in evil paths. Israel had grown weak in their allegiance to Jehovah and had gone after strange gods. Following the death of Solomon the nation was disrupted. In the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt besieged the City of David and even despoiled the Temple and carried away part of the sacred treasures. Next, Jehoash, king of one part of the divided nation, took away gold and silver and sacred vessels from the House of the Lord and carried them into Samaria. It is thus shown that the desecration of the Temple was not effected wholly by the enemies of Israel; the people to whom the House had once been sacred contributed to its profanation. Ahaz, the wicked king of Judah, removed the altar from its place and substituted therefore another fashioned by his own order after the pattern of the altars of the heathen; moreover he took down the molten sea and dismantled the lavers. Mannasseh, another evil king who reigned in Judah, followed after Baal and set up idola- trous shrines within the very precincts of the Temple. The precious things of the House of the Lord were used as barter between kings. So, Asa king of Judah purchased the aid of Ben-hadad, to fight against Israel; so also did Jehoash purchase peace from Hazael king of Syria; and so did Hezekiah strip the House of the Lord for plunder wherewith to pay tribute to the Assyrians.
Some attempts were made to repair the worst of the ravages upon and within the Temple but it seemed that the House had been abandoned to its fate. In the year 586 B. C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, completed the destruction of the Temple in connection with his conquest of the kingdom of Judah. Whatever of value was yet there he carried away, and the building was destroyed by fire.
There occurs yet one later mention of some of the vessels that had been made for the service of Jehovah,-when they were brought out to crown the triumph of Belshazzar in his heathenish feast. Then was manifest the displeasure of the Lord, and the trembling king heard from the lips of Daniel his doom,-for he had been unmindful of the fate that had overtaken his father, and had lifted up himself against the Lord of heaven; and had brought out the vessels of the house of God that he and his lords, his wives and his concubines might drink wine therefrom; and he had praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know; but the God in whose hand was his breath and whose were all his ways had he not glorified. He had been weighed in the balances and was found wanting; and his kingdom was taken from him. That night, Belshazzar the king was slain.