According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was constructed by Solomon, king of the ancient Israelites, on a hill called Moriah in Jerusalem. It housed the Ark of the Covenant and functioned as a religious focal point in ancient Judaism for the worship of Yahweh.
According to secular historians, the Temple would have been completed in around 960 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 587/6 BCE. Traditional rabbinic sources state that the First Temple stood for 410 years and based on the 2nd-century work Seder Olam Rabbah, place construction in 832 BCE and destruction in 422 BCE (3338 AM), 165 years later than secular estimates. The Second Temple was subsequently built and destroyed on the same site and Jewish eschatology includes the belief that a Third Temple will also be built there.
Due to the extreme political sensitivity of the site, few archaeological excavations have been conducted on the Temple Mount itself. To date, no archaeological evidence for Solomon's Temple has been found and the only information regarding the First Temple in Jerusalem is contained in the Hebrew Bible.
The only source of information on Solomon's Temple is contained in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. The following is a summary of the Deuteronomical history (Samuel and Kings), with notes on the variations to this story in the later Chronicler's history.
The Shekinah (dwelling place) of Yahweh, the God of Israel, was originally the portable shrine called the Ark of the Covenant, which was placed in the Tabernacle tent. King David, having unified all Israel, brought the Ark to his new capital, Jerusalem, intending to build there a temple in order to house the Ark in a permanent place. David purchased a threshing-floor for the site of the Temple (1 Chronicles 21-22), but then Yahweh told him that he would not be permitted to build a temple. The task of building therefore passed to David's son and successor, Solomon. 1 Kings 6:1-38, 1 Kings Chapter 7, and Chapter 8 describe the construction and dedication of the Temple under Solomon.
King Solomon requested the aid of King Hiram of Tyre to provide both the quality materials and skilled craftsmen. During the construction, special inner room, named in Hebrew Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies), was prepared to receive and house the Ark of the Covenant (1 Kings 6:19); and when the Temple was dedicated, the Ark—containing the Tablets of Stone—was placed therein (1 Kings 8:6-9).
The exact location of Solomon's Temple is unknown: it is believed to have been situated upon the hill which forms the site of the 1st century Herod's Temple and present-day Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock is situated. However, two other, slightly different sites have been proposed for this same hill: one places the stone altar at the location of the rock which is now beneath the gilded dome, with the rest of the temple to the west. The Well of Souls was, according to this theory, a pit for the remnants of the blood services of the korbanot. The other theory places the Holy of Holies atop this rock. Still another location has recently been proposed between the Dome of the Rock and the gilded dome, based on orientation to the eastern wall, drainage channels, orientation of the platform stones, and the location of a possible Boaz pillar base.
2 Kings 12:4-16 describes arrangements for the refurbishment of the Temple in the time of king Jehoash of Judah in the 9th century BCE. According to 2 Kings 14:14 the Temple was looted by Jehoash of Israel in the early 8th century and again by King Ahaz in the late 8th century (2 Kings 16:8). Ahaz also installed some cultic innovations in the Temple which were abhorrent to the author of 1-2 Kings (2 Kings 16:10-18).
The Temple also figures in the account of King Hezekiah, who turned Judah away from idols; when later in the same century Hezekiah is confronted with a siege by the Assyrian king Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:23, 19:1 and the Taylor prism), Hezekiah "instead of plundering the temple treasuries... now uses the temple the way it is designed to be used - as a house of prayer (2 Kings 19:1-14).
Hezekiah's son, however, is much different from his father and during the reign of Manasseh of Judah in the early and middle seventh century (2 Kings 21:4-9), Manasseh makes innovations to the Temple cult. He has been described as an idolatrous Solomon who also fell into idolatry, and Manasseh is described as a king who "makes" (2 Kings 21:3-7), "builds" (2 Kings 21:3) high places (cf. 1 Kings 11:7)(see Deuteronomy 12 for the prohibition against high place worship), yet while Solomon's idolatry was punished by a divided kingdom, Manessah's idolatry will be punished by exile.
King Josiah, the grandson of Manasseh, refurbished and made changes to the Temple by removing idolatrous vessels and destroying the idolatrous priesthood c. 621 BCE (2 Kings 22:3-9; 23:11-12). The Temple was plundered by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, during the brief reign of Jehoiachin c. 598 (2 Kings 24:13), Josiah's grandson. The Babylonians attacked Jerusalem again and burned the Temple in 597 BCE, along with most of the city (2 Kings 25). According to Jewish tradition, the Temple destruction day was on Tisha B'Av, meaning the 9th day of Av (Hebrew calendar).
Several temples in Mesopotamia, many in Egypt, and some of the Phoenicians are now known. The description given of Solomon's Temple is not a copy of any of these, but embodied features recognisable in all of them. Its general form is reminiscent of Egyptian sanctuaries and closely matches that of other ancient temples in the region.
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. Nevertheless, the recorded plans and measurements have inspired Replicas of the Jewish Temple and influenced later structures around the world.
The Kodesh Hakodashim, or Holy of Holies, (1 Kings 6:19; 8:6), also called the "Inner House" (6:27), (Heb. 9:3) 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 tekhelet (blue), purple, and crimson and fine linen (2 Chr. 3:14; compare Exodus 26:33). It had no windows (1 Kings 8:12) and was considered the dwelling-place of the "name" of God.
The color scheme of the veil was symbolic. Blue represented the heavens, while red or crimson represented the earth. Purple, a combination of the two colors, represents a meeting of the heavens and the earth.
The Hekhal, or 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", 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.)
The Ulam, or porch, acted as an 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.
Two brass pillars named Boaz and Jachin stood in the porch of the Temple. (1 Kings 7:15; 7:21; 2 Kings 11:14; 23:3). Boaz stood on the left and Jachin on the right. The Bible records their measurements as 27 feet (8.2 m) high and 6 feet (1.8 m) wide (18 by 12 cubits) with a hollow of 4 fingers thick. (Jeremiah 52:21-22). Their 8-foot (2.4 m) high brass capitals were each decorated with rows of 200 carved brass pomegranates, wreathed with seven chains and topped with lilies. (1 Kings 7:13-22, 41-42; 2 Chronicles 4:13) According to most translations of 1 Kings 7:13-22, these two pillars were cast of brass, though some believe the original Hebrew word used to describe their material, "nehosheth", is actually either bronze or copper, because the Hebrews were unfamiliar with zinc, which along with copper, is required to create brass.
The two pillars 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". 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 that they may have been used as fire-altars. This assumes that they contained cressets for burning the fat.
Chambers 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 the Bible, two courts surrounded the Temple. The Inner Court (1 Kings 6:36), or Court of the Priests (2 Chr. 4:9), was separated from the space beyond by a wall of three courses of hewn stone, surmounted by cedar beams (1 Kings 6:36). It contained the Altar of burnt-offering (2 Chr. 15:8), the Brazen Sea laver (4:2-5, 10) and ten other lavers (1 Kings 7:38, 39). A brazen altar stood before the Temple (2 Kings 16:14), its dimensions 20 cubits square and 10 cubits high (2 Chr. 4:1). The Great Court surrounded the whole Temple (2 Chr. 4:9). It was here that people assembled to worship. (Jeremiah 19:14; 26:2).
The Brazen Sea measured 10 cubits wide brim to brim, 5 cubits deep and with a circumference of 30 cubits around the brim, rested on the backs of twelve oxen (1 Kings 7:23-26). The Book of Kings gives its capacity as "2,000 baths" (24,000 US gallons), but Chronicles inflates this to three thousand baths (36,000 US gallons) (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.
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. 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 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.
David, according to 2 Sam 7:2 et seq., desired to build a temple for Yhwh, but was not permitted to do so, although, according to the Chronicler (1Chr 22:14 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 (2 Sam 24:21 et seq.), on which he offered sacrifice; and there Solomon afterward built his Temple (2Chr 3:1). 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 (1 Kg 6:37f).
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.).
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 (1 Kg 7:39), there stood the molten sea, a large laver 10 cubits in diameter, ornamented with knops. This laver rested on the backs of twelve oxen (1 Kg 7:23ff). The Chronicler gives its capacity as "three thousand baths" (2Chr 4:5f) and states that its purpose was to afford opportunity for the ablutions of the priests.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon’s Temple, was the first temple the Israelites built for God. It was also called the first temple and was first built by Solomon. It stood next to the king’s palace, and was both God’s royal palace and Israel’s center of worship. The Bible says that the Lord said to Solomon, “I have consecrated (made special or clean) this temple…by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there” (1 King 9:3). A symbol of holiness and royalty, it reminded the Israelites that God was the special head of Israel. It was patterned after the and, in general, other temples at that time, and was divided into three important areas: the Most Holy Place, the Holy Place and the outer courtyard. It was built in Jerusalem, on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, where Solomon's father David had bought to build an altar to God.
According to secular Historians, the Temple would have been completed in around 960 BCE. The Babylonians destroyed it in 587 or 586 BCE. Rabbinic literature says that the temple stood for 410 years. According to the work Seder Olam Rabbah, written in the second century CE, the temple was built in 832 BCE, and destroyed in 433 BCE (3338 AM). This is 165 later than the secular estimates.
To date, no definite archaeological proofs for Solomon's Temple havw been found and the only information regarding the First Temple in Jerusalem is inside the biblical books of Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings.
At first, King David wanted to build a temple for God, but according to the Bible, God said to him through the prophet Nathan, "You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood." However, he chose Solomon to build the temple. Before his death, David gave his son Solomon the plans for the building of the temple, and instructions for the priests and Levites, and all the work of serving in the temple. He also gave his own money to Solomon to help build the temple, and asked the people to help give gifts of money.
King Solomon sent a message to Hiram king of Tyre, who had been friends with his father David and sent David lots of wood to build his palace with. In this message, Solomon said that he wanted to build a temple for the Lord, and asked Hiram to send him wood. Hiram said that he would if Solomon gave food for the cost of the wood and work people did. So Hiram gave Solomon all the cedar and pine logs he wanted, and Solomon gave Hiram wheat for his family, and twenty thousand baths (about 115,000 gallons or 434 000 liters) of olive oil. King Hiram cut down the wood and sent them on to a place called Joppa. From there they could take the wood up to Jerusalem.
According to the Bible, “In the 480th year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in…the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD.”(1 Kings 6:1) King Solomon brought Huram-Abi, whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali (one of the tribes of Israel) and whose father was a man from Tyre and a person who was a craftsman in bronze. Huram was very good at all kinds of work. In 2 Chronicles 2:7 it says that he was "...skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue yarn." He was especially good at working with bronze. When all the work King Solomon had done for the temple was finished, he brought in the things his father David had given to God, and put them in the treasuries of the temple. So "In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications." (1 Kings 6:38 NIV)
When the temple was finished, King Solomon brought the sheep and cattle "they could not be recorded or counted". Then the cloud filled the temple - just as God showed himself on the at Mt. Sinai, he now showed himself at the temple in a cloud. Then King Solomon praised God. He said a prayer of dedication (giving to God) in front of the people of Israel. He asked God to keep his promise to King David of letting King David's sons rule forever (which, according to the bible, becomes true when Jesus, the son of David, dies for mankind); then he added, "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!"--reminding the people that God was not bound to the temple and could not be contained, even though he had chosen to come and with the people of Israel in a special way. Then he asked God to answer the people of Israel when they prayed toward, or at, the temple; to hear from heaven when someone sinned, or enemies came to Israel, or there was drought or famine in the land, "...whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea (asking for something, request) is made by any of your people Israel...then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men), so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers" (1 Kings 8:38-40). Then Solom stood up and blessed the people of Israel, and gave sacrifices to God: "twenty thousand cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats. So the king and all the Israelites dedicated the temple of the LORD"(1 Kings 8: 63, NIV).of the Lord's covenant to the temple and made all the people of Israel come there, and they sacrificed so many
According to the Bible, when Solomon had finished building the temple, God appeared to him and said, "I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me...My eyes and my heart will always be there [at the temple you have made]." However, God also warned to Solomon the importance of obeying God's covenant (promise) in order to enjoy its blessings, not its curses. This was needed because God gave Solomon power and wealth, which many times made people forget the promise God had made with them.
Solomon also gave to Hiram king of Tyre 20 towns in Galilee because Hiram had given him all the cedar and pine and gold he had needed. But Hiram did not like the towns Solomon had given him and he said, "What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?" (1 Kings 9:13, NIV) He called them the Land of Cabul (which sounds like the Hebrew for good-for-nothing). Probably Solomon had become more indebted to Hiram than he had at first thought, so he had given the towns to Hiram king of Tyre as a sign that he would pay him later. 2 Chronicles 8:1-2 says that later, when Solomon became richer - maybe because of the expedition to Ophir (1 King 9:26-28;10-11) or the visit from the queen of Sheba.
The temple of Solomon was next to the king's palace. The floor plan was like most West Semite kinds of floor plans. An early example of a floor divided into ulam, hekal, and debir ( and much later but more around the time of Solomon, at Tell Tainat at the Orontes basin (c.900 B.C.) . Like Solomon's, the later temple has three divisions has two columns at the entrance (in Solomon's palace, they are called Jakin and Boaz), and is next to the royal palace., main hall, and inner ) has been found at Syrian Ebla (c.2300 B.C.)
The ark of the covenant of God was put inside the inner sanctuary - the Most Holy Place - which was about 30 feet (about 9 meters) long, wide and high, overlaid with pure gold. Solomon used lots of gold in the temple: this was probably because the bright gold symbolized the glory of God and his heavenly temple (Rev.21:10-11,18,21). Inside the temple were carved , palm trees and flowers. This is a reminder of the Garden of Eden, which humans could not live in anymore because of their sin. The temple was a symbol that the Israelites could come back to paradise through the temple.
Some discoveries today echo the words in 1 Kings 6-7.
A stone altar having four horns on the corners was found at Megiddo. It shows a good idea of how the gold altar in the temple looked like. The table for the Bread of the Presence was also made of gold. The Bread of the Presence (twelve pieces of bread, one for every tribe of Israel), symbolized a continual offering to God by which Israel showed that she gave to God what she earned with her work, and that everything Israel had received was a blessing of God's.
Ten lamp stands were in the temple, five on each side of the Palestine, including Hazor and Dothan.(1 Kings 7:49). Lamps like these have been found in many places in
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