According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon’s Temple, also known as the First Temple.

Solomon’s Temple was the Holy Temple in ancient Jerusalem before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BCE and its subsequent replacement with the Second Temple in the 6th century BCE.

The period in which the First Temple presumably, or actually, stood in Jerusalem, is known in academic literature as the First Temple period (c.1000–586 BCE).

The Hebrew Bible states that the temple was constructed under Solomon, king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah and that during the Kingdom of Judah, the temple was dedicated to Yahweh.

During different periods of its operation, Asherah, Baal, the host of heaven and a solar deity were also worshipped. Temple worship included ritual sacrifice, ritual cleanings, and sacred prostitution. It is said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant.

The Jewish historian Josephus says that:

the temple was burnt four hundred and seventy years, six months, and ten days after it was built“.

Because of the religious sensitivities involved, and the politically volatile situation in Jerusalem, only limited archaeological surveys of the Temple Mount have been conducted.

No archaeological excavations have been allowed on the Temple Mount during modern times. Therefore, there are very few pieces of archaeological evidence for the existence of Solomon’s Temple.

An ivory pomegranate which mentions priests in the house “of —h“, and an inscription recording the Temple’s restoration under Jehoash have both appeared on the antiquities market, but their authenticity has been challenged, and they are subjects of controversy.

Construction

The only source of information on the First Temple is the Tanakh. According to the biblical sources, the temple was constructed under Solomon, during the united monarchy of Israel and Judah.

The Bible describes Hiram I of Tyre who furnished architects, workmen and cedar timbers for the temple of his ally Solomon at Jerusalem.

He also co-operated with Solomon in mounting an expedition on the Red Sea. 1 Kings 6:1 puts the date of the beginning of building the temple “in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel“. The conventional dates of Solomon’s reign are circa 970 to 931 BCE.

This puts the date of its construction in the mid-10th century BCE. 1 Kings 9:10 says that it took Solomon 20 years altogether to build the Temple and his royal palace. The Temple itself finished being built after 7 years.

Plunder and destruction

According to the Tanakh, the Temple was plundered by the Neo-Babylonian Empire king Nebuchadnezzar II when the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem during the brief reign of Jehoiachin c. 598 BCE.

A decade later, Nebuchadnezzar again besieged Jerusalem and after 30 months finally breached the city walls in 587 BCE, subsequently burning the Temple, along with most of the city. According to Jewish tradition, the Temple was destroyed on Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of Av (Hebrew calendar).

Plan of Solomon’s Temple with measurements

The Temple of Solomon is considered to be built according to Phoenician design, and its description is considered the best description of what a Phoenician temple looked like.

The detailed descriptions provided in the Tanakh are the sources for reconstructions of its appearance. Technical details are lacking, since the scribes who wrote the books were not architects or engineers.

Nevertheless, the descriptions have inspired modern replicas of the temple and influenced later structures around the world.

Holy of Holies

The Holy of Holies, or Kodesh haKodashim in Hebrew, also called the “Inner House“, 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, and its walls and floor were overlaid with gold amounting to 600 talents or roughly 20 metric tons.

It contained two cherubim of olive-wood, each 10 cubits high and each having outspread wings of 10 cubits span, 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 also a veil of tekhelet (blue), purple, and crimson and fine linen. It had no windows and was considered the dwelling-place of the “name” of God.

The Kodesh haKodashim (the Holy of Holies) was prepared to receive and house the Ark (1 Kings 6:19); and when the Temple was dedicated, the Ark, containing the original tablets of the Ten Commandments, was placed beneath the cherubim (1 Kings 8:6).

Hekhal

The Hekhal, or Holy Place, is also called the “greater house” and the “temple” the word also means “palace“, 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 overlaid with gold. The doorposts, of olivewood, supported folding doors of fir.

The doors of the Holy of Holies were of olivewood. On both sets of doors were carved cherubim, palm trees, and flowers, all being overlaid with gold.

This main building was between the outer altar, where most sacrifices were performed, and inside at the far end was the entry to the Holy of Holies, originally containing the Ark of the Covenant.

The main hekhal contained a number of sacred ritual objects including the seven-branched candlestick, the inner altar for incense offerings (also called the “Golden Altar”), and the table of the showbread.

Freemasonry

Rituals in Freemasonry refer to King Solomon and the building of his Temple. Masonic buildings, where lodges and their members meet, are sometimes called “temples“; an allegoric reference to King Solomon’s Temple.

Islam

The Temple in Jerusalem is mentioned in verse 7 of the surah Al-Isra in the Quran with the words ” (We permitted your enemies) to…. enter your Temple”; commentators of Quran such as Muhammad al-Tahir ibn Ashur postulate that this verse refers specifically to the Temple of Solomon.

Kabbalah

Kabbalah views the design of the Temple of Solomon as representative of the metaphysical world and the descending light of the creator through Sefirot of the Tree of Life.

The levels of the outer, inner and priest’s courts represent three lower worlds of Kabbalah. The Boaz and Jachin pillars at the entrance of the temple represent the active and passive elements of the world of Atziluth.

The original menorah and its seven branches represent the seven lower Sephirot of the Tree of Life. The veil of the Holy of Holies and the inner part of the temple represent the Veil of the Abyss on the Tree of Life, behind which the Shekhinah or Divine Presence hovers.

References:

*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.