—Biblical Data:

David, according to II Sam. vii. 2 et seq., desired to build a temple for Yhwh, but was not permitted to do so, although, according to the Chronicler (I Chron. xxii. 14 et seq.), he prepared for the building a large quantity of material, which he later gave to his son Solomon. David also purchased a thrashing-floor from Araunah the Jebusite (II Sam. xxiv. 21 et seq.), on which he offered sacrifice; and there Solomon afterward built his Temple (II Chron. iii. 1). In preparation for the building Solomon made an alliance with Hiram, King of Tyre, who furnished him with skilled workmen and, apparently, permitted him to cut timber in Lebanon. Solomon began to build the Temple in the fourth year of his reign; its erection occupied seven years (I Kings vi. 37, 38).

The structure was 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high (I Kings vi. 2). It faced the east (Ezek. xlvii. 1). Before the Temple stood a porch 20 cubits long (corresponding to the width of the Temple) and 10 cubits deep (I Kings vi. 3). II Chron. iii. 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 stone of which the Temple was built was dressed at the quarry, so that no work of that kind was necessary within the Temple precincts (I Kings vi. 7). The roof was of cedar, and the whole house was overlaid with gold (I Kings vi. 9, 22).


The structure was three stories in height. The wall was not of equal thickness all the way up, but had ledges on which the floor-beams rested. Around the structure was a series of chambers, of varying size because of the differences in the thickness of the wall. Those of the lowest story were 5 cubits in depth; those of the second 6; and those of the third, 7. The Temple was also provided with windows of fixed latticework (I Kings vi. 4, 6, 8, 10). At the rear of this edifice was the Holy of Holies, which was in form a perfect cube, each of its dimensions being 20 cubits. The interior was lined with cedar and overlaid with pure gold. The Holy of Holies contained two cherubim of olive-wood, each 10 cubits high (I Kings vi. 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 (comp. Cherub). According to II Chron. iii. 14, a veil of variegated linen separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple.

The rest of the building, the Holy Place, 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 (I Kings vi. 15 et seq.).

The Pillars.

Before the Temple, Solomon erected two bronze pillars, called Jachin and Boaz. Each of these was 18 cubits in height, and was surmounted by a capital of carved lilies, 5 cubits high. Before the Temple, a little to the southeast (I Kings vii. 39), there stood the molten sea, a large laver 10 cubits in diameter, ornamented with knops. This laver rested on the backs of twelve oxen (ib. vii. 23-26). The Chronicler gives its capacity as "three thousand baths" (II Chron. iv. 5-6) and states that its purpose was to afford opportunity for the ablutions of the priests.

The Vessels.

Another article of Temple furniture is described as a "base." It was a portable holder for a small laver, and was 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 (I Kings vii. 27-37). Each of these "bases" supported a laver which held "forty baths" (I Kings vii. 38). From II Kings xvi. 14 it is learned that a brazen altar stood before the Temple. II Chron. iv. 1 says that this altar was 20 cubits square and 10 cubits high; according to I Kings vii. 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 surrounded by a court, which was separated from the space beyond by a wall of three courses of hewn stone, surmounted by cedar beams (I Kings vi. 36). The Chronicler calls this the court of the priests (II Chron. iv. 9).

Plan of the Royal Buildings Erected by Solomon on the Temple Mound (According to Stade).1. Great court. 2. Middle court. 3. Temple court. 4. House of Lebanon. 5. Porch of pillars. 6. Throne porch. 7. Royal palace. 8. Harem. 9. Temple. 10. Altar.

The Temple did not stand alone; it was part of a splendid pile of buildings which Solomon constructed in immediate connection with it. This pile included Solomon's own residence, the palace of Pharaoh's daughter, the throne-room, the "porch of pillars," and "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (I Kings vii. 1-8). These were so arranged that in entering the palace enclosure one came first to the "house of the forest of Lebanon," with its splendid pillars, then to the inner "porch of pillars," the hall of state, or throne-room, Solomon's private dwelling, and, lastly, to the palace of Pharaoh's daughter. For the splendor of these buildings Solomon was indebted to Phenician architects and workmen (I Kings vii. 40-47).

E. C. G. A. B.Exaggerations in Account. —Critical View:

When the Temple was constructed it was, together with Solomon's palace, by far the most splendid pile of buildings that the Hebrews had ever seen. Even to this day, as one comes from the surrounding country to Jerusalem, the city seems magnificent, although in comparison with a European capital it is far otherwise. Similarly the influence of environment may be seen in the description of Solomon's Temple. With the lapse of time Israel's fortunes declined, and the age of Solomon seemed even more glorious in comparison with later obviously decadent periods; and this increased the tendency to exaggerate the splendor of the Temple. Moreover, religious reforms made some of the arrangements of the Temple seem unorthodox, and various scribes seem to have amplified its description; as they did not always have the same point of view, present accounts are confused to a degree (comp. Stade's "Zeitschrift," 1883, pp. 129 et seq.). One of the exaggerations of later times probably produced all those statements which declare that the inner parts of the Temple and all its implements were overlaid with gold (comp. Kittel, "Königsbücher," in Nowack, "Hand-Kommentar," pp. 46-55).

As a result of editorial reworking of the description, the narrative in Kings contains no account of the great brazen altar which stood before the Temple. Ex. xx. 24 et seq. provided that an altar might be made of earth or unhewn stone; and as it offended a later age to think that Solomon made an altar of bronze, its description was removed from I Kings vii. Nevertheless it is recorded elsewhere (ib. viii. 64; II Kings xvi. 14) that it was a part of the furniture of the original Temple. Later scribes, too, are responsible for those statements which represent David as desiring to build the Temple, and as making preparation for it. Had he desired to build it he certainly could have done so. But in his reign the nomadic idea still prevailed, and a tent was thought to be Yhwh's proper dwelling (comp. II Sam. vii. 6). Later generations, to whom the Templeseemed a necessity, could not understand why so venerated a man as David did not build it; hence these statements.

The Site.

There can be no doubt that the Temple of Solomon was situated upon the more easterly of the two hills which form the site of the present Ḥaram area in Jerusalem, in the center of which area is the Mosque of Omar. Fergusson, Trupp, Lewin, and W. R. Smith held that the Temple was built in the southwest corner of the present Ḥaram area; but the view is false. That site is a part of an artificial extension of the level of the Temple area over the Tyropœon valley, and probably was not made before the time of Herod. The most probable site of the Temple is just west of the "Dome of the Rock" in the center of the Mosque of Omar. The bronze altar was probably on this rock. The mosque was built over a rock the traditions of which were sacred; probably the site was the same as that of the temple which Hadrian erected to Jupiter. This in turn was on the site of Herod's temple, which would naturally be on that of Solomon's. The persistency of sacred sites in the East makes this most likely. It was probably a sacred place of the Jebusites before David's time, though II Sam. xxiv. connects its consecration with an incident in David's reign. Solomon's palace probably lay to the south of the Temple. The most probable arrangement of the buildings is that suggested by Stade ("Gesch. des Volkes Israel," i. 314, 315).

Interior of the "Dome of the Rock" Showing Traditional Site of Holy of Holies.(From a photograph by the American Colony at Jerusalem.)

The Biblical text makes it clear that Solomon received from Hiram, King of Tyre, much aid in constructing his buildings. As the Hebrews were an agricultural people, this aid probably involved not only material (cedar-wood, etc.), but architectural direction and skilled craftsmen. The architectural features will be considered later. 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 (xxviii. 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 survivalsof 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 ( comp. Paradise). Similarly, the bronze altar was a Phenician 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. xx. (Elohist) prohibited the making of graven images, while that of Ex. xxxiv. (Jahvist) 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.

Comparison with Other Temples.

Several temples in Babylonia, many in Egypt, and some of the Phenicians are now known. In Babylonia the characteristic feature was a "ziggurat," or terraced tower, evidently intended to imitate a mountain. 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 Gizeh. The Middle Empire (12th dynasty) added obelisks and pylons, and the New Empire (18th dynasty) hypostyle halls. The Phenician temples varied somewhat in form, and were surrounded by courts. Solomon's Temple was not a copy of any of these, but embodied features derived from all of them. It was on the summit of a hill, thus expressing the Babylonian idea of the divine abode; it was surrounded by courts, like the Phenician temples and the splendid temple of Der al-Bakri at Thebes, while its general form reminds one of Egyptian sanctuaries. The two pillars Jachin and Boaz had their parallel not only at Tyre but at Byblus, Paphos, and Telloh (see, however, De Sarzec, "Découvertes en Chaldée," pp. 62-64). In Egypt the obelisks expressed the same idea. All these were phallic emblems, being survivals of the primitive Hamito-Semitic "maẓẓebah" (comp. W. R. Smith, "Rel. of Sem." 2d ed., p. 208; Schmidt, "Solomon's Temple," pp. 40 et seq.). Jachin and Boaz were really isolated columns, as Schick has shown ("Die Stiftshütte, der Tempel in Jerusalem," etc., pp. 82 et seq.), 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.

A Miniature World.

The chambers which surrounded the Holy Place in Solomon's Temple are said in I Chron. xxviii. 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 (comp. Jastrow, "Rel. of Bab. and Assyria," p. 653). 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.

Solomon's Temple was, then, a fine example of an Oriental temple. Although it had features in common with the temples of all the races kindred to the Jews, it combined those features in a new and independent way, so that the Temple at Jerusalem was one of the most interesting architectural products of the Hamito-Semitic religious life.

The Temple Solomon's Chapel.

The Temple of Solomon was in reality an innovation in Israel. It was a part of a regal magnificence which was foreign to the national life, and which had to be introduced from outside and patterned on foreign models; and it was looked upon with little favor by many of his subjects. Moreover, the Temple was erected upon a site but recently conquered from the Jebusites, and which for the Israelites had no sacred associations. Other sites—those of Shechem, Beth-el, Hebron—were consecrated by patriarchal tradition (Gen. xxii. 2 is the product of a later time), but Jerusalem was unhallowed by such associations, and its sanctuary was full of foreign innovations. When Jeroboam revolted and erected Beth-el and Dan into royal sanctuaries he perpetuated a ritual of a simpler and more national character (comp. I Kings xii. 28). The Temple at Jerusalem was in reality Solomon's chapel—a part of that regal pile of buildings which he had constructed not so much for the use of his subjects as for his personal aggrandizement. It was later events, such as Sennacherib's invasion, Isaiah's conception that Jerusalem was in violable, the Deuteronomic reform (which made all sanctuaries except that at Jerusalem illegal), and, above all, the tragic events of the Exile, which made this Temple supremely sacred in the thought of Jews of later times.

  • Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, i. 311 et seq., Berlin, 1889;
  • Nowack, Hebräische Archäologie, ii. 38 et seq., Leipsic, 1894;
  • Benzinger, Arch.;
  • Schick, Die Stiftshütte, der Tempel in Jerusalem und der Tempelplatz der Jetztzeit, Berlin, 1896;
  • Emanuel Schmidt, Solomon's Temple in the Light of Other Oriental Temples, Chicago, 1902.
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