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S. George Khalaf

This article, which is copyrighted, was posted with permission from its author, S. George Khalaf. 
Material was copied as is from his website


The Hebrews, nomadic branch of the Semites, were enslaved in Egypt for centuries till their exodus c.14th century BC guided by Moses. He, though an offspring of Hebrew slaves, was educated at the royal Pharaonic court under the patronage of an Egyptian princess. Biblical records, if to be trusted for historical references, indicate that he lead the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt and through the Sinai desert on their way to southern Canaan/Phoenicia.

Egyptian Stand on Race

As a people, the Egyptians had a very racist and antagonistic stand vis-ŗ-vis all other races. They considered Semitic Hebrews, Canaanites, Libyans, Black Nubians (even though Nubian Pharaohs ruled Egypt for 100 years), Ethiopians and other non-Egyptians as sub-human. Hence, they treated the aforesaid Hebrew nomads with disdain. It is, therefore, safe to say that most Hebrews in Egypt were not permitted to rise as a people and they suffered in ignorance and poverty.

Forty Years in the Desert

On their way out of Egypt, the Hebrews spent 40 years wandering in the desert of Sinai. During this time all who left Egypt died, including Moses himself who saw the "promised" land but did not live long enough to enter it. Consequently, the Hebrews arrived in Canaan/Phoenicia uncivilized nomads with very little skills or knowledge which civilized people of the area had. By the time they captured Jerusalem c. 1000 BC they have had very little newly acquired capabilities other than fighting wars with the Canaanites/Phoenicians, the Philistines, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Aramaeans, the Ammonites, the Amalekites and the Edomites.

Hebrew Ignorance of Building Techniques

The Hebrews never had the enough opportunity to master the art and science of building in Egypt. They were hardened in the desert and in battle but lacked the know-how to build palaces worthy of kings or a Temple worthy of God, the Ark of the Covenant, the Tablets of the Law and the Pentateuch of Moses. These important items of the Hebrew religion were treasured in a tabernacle (tent) up till this point in time.

Phoenicians/Canaanites Help Kings David and Solomon

When David was chosen king and, thereafter, Solomon; they were in need of artisans, architects, craftsmen, builders and building material especially wood and precious metals to build a temple and palace. The best known and most gifted people to fulfill the kings' needs were the Phoenicians. Hence, both kings sought and received Phoenician know-how and materials.

The Temple of Melqart of Tyre

The Phoenicians had a proven record of their building skills in their Temple of Melqart in Tyre. Historians refer to it as one of unmatched magnificence in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was said to have two great columns one of gold and the other covered with precious stones. Herodotus sang its praises when he visited Tyre. Its name was change to the Temple of Heracles when he visited -- much like the name of the Columns of Melqart at Gibraltar were changed to the Columns of Heracles/ Hercules.

Solomon's Temple Copy of Melqart's Temple

After studying records about Solomon's Temple and Melqart's Temple, one finds a lot in common between the two. It would not be a far-fetched suggestion to say that Solomon's Temple of Jerusalem was a copy of Melqart's Temple of Tyre. Because of the splendor it occupied in their mind, it is understandable that the Phoenician builders must have used Melqart's Temple as a prototype for designing and building Solomon's Temple.

Note: Illustrations of the Lever and Temple (outside), bird's eye view of Temple, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place are linked herewith.

A special article is dedicated to Phoenician architecture.

Construction of palaces and temple for Kings David and Solomon of Judah-Israel by the Phoenician King Hiram of Tyre

The Phoenician king Hiram of Tyre was born in 989 BC. He ruled from 970-936 BC. He established friendly relations with David and his son Solomon, kings of the combined kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Hiram built a palace for David and two palaces and a temple for Solomon. A vast amount of information is given in the Bible about these.

Davidís Palace

King Hiram of Tyre sent a trade mission to David; he provided him with cedar logs and with stonemasons and carpenters to build a palace. (1 Chronicles 14:1)

Hiramís move is much more significant than this short passage indicates. It was necessary for a king to have a palace for his kingship to be recognised as legitimate. In the Phoenician sagas from Ugarit, after Yam becomes king, skilled craftsmen build:

... a mansion for Yam... a palace for Judge Nahar
... they are building a mansion for Prince Yam
they are constructing a palace for Judge Nahar, a house like...

When Baal conquers Yam, El installs him as king:

At that moment verily the bull El his father,
the god who installed him as king, cried out,
Athirat and her sons,
Ellat and the company of her kinsfolk
cried out:
Now there isnít a house for Baal like El
nor a court like the sons of Athirat...

Baal complains to his sister Anat and asks her to petition El for permission to build a palace:

And now, no house has Baal like the gods,
nor court like the children of Asherah.
The dwelling of El is the shelter of his son,
the dwelling of Lady Asherah of the Sea.

El agrees that Baal can build a palace to consolidate his position, and it will be magnificent. Anat takes Baal the good news from El:

I have brought you good news.
A house will be built for you like your brothers
and a court like your relatives.
Call a caravan into your house
a convoy into your palace;
the rocks will yield you much silver,
the mountains the choicest of gold,
and a mansion of silver and gold will be built,
a mansion of brilliant stones, even sapphires.

The victor Baal did rejoice,
he did call a caravan into his mansion,
a convoy within his palace,
that the rocks might yield him much silver
and the mountains the choicest of gold,
that they might yield him the noblest of gems...

Yam and Baal gained their kingship through victory in battle yet still were not considered established as kings until they had their own palaces. David wasnít in as strong a position. His need to establish legitimacy was greater because he had usurped the thrones of both Judah and Israel from the existing royal line of Saul without the benefit of conquest.

The Hebrews originally had "judges" not kings. They instituted kings while they were trying to conquer southern Phoenicia because they saw that the Phoenicians and Philistines (Palestinians) were more effective in battle as they had kings who provided strong central leadership.

Saul was the first Hebrew king and was king of Judah, the territory of the tribe of Judah, which ran from south of Jerusalem up to and including Hebron. Saul was killed in battle along with three of his sons but legitimate heirs to the throne survived. First in line was Ishbaal, another of Saulís sons.

(The Bible calls Ishbaal Ishbosheth as the Hebrews later changed Hebrew names that included the Phoenician god Baal so that it looked as if the Hebrews had never worshipped the Phoenician gods.).

When David took over as king of Judah, the commander of Saulís army, Abner, made Ishbaal king of Israel. David ruled as king of Judah for seven and a half years, from his capital city, Hebron. Ishbaal ruled as king over the Hebrewsí northern kingdom, Israel, which covered the Samaria hill country.

Ishbaal was assassinated by two of his army officers but there was still a legitimate heir to the throne, Jonathanís son Mephibaal, Saulís grandson, who was crippled in both feet (2 Samuel 9:13).

(The Bible calls him Mephibosheth for the same reason it calls Ishbaal Ishbosheth).

Although Mephibaal was the heir to the throne, itís unlikely that he could ever have reigned because it seems the Hebrews, new to king-making, had adopted the Phoenician rule that kings had to be without blemish. For example, a later king of Judah, Uzziah, was not allowed to continue ruling when he contracted leprosy: The Lord struck Uzziah with a dreaded skin disease that stayed with him the rest of his life. He lived in a house on his own, relieved of all duties, while his son Jotham governed the country. (2 Kings 15:5). So itís improbable that the people would have accepted a physically handicapped king

After Ishbaalís murder David became king over Judah and Israel and nobody made a claim on behalf of Mephibaal. However, Mephibaal had sons, who could have challenged David and/or his successors in the future. So David still needed to consolidate his position.

At this point, Hiram offered to build him a palace. This meant Hiram, the most powerful, richest monarch in the region at the time, recognised Davidís legitimacy as king of Judah and Israel. His recognition would have had the same force as a country recognising another country today by establishing diplomatic relations and an embassy.

David was wise enough to forestall future palace coup attempts by taking Mephibaal into his own home and treating him like one of his own sons.

David was 30 years old when he became king, and he ruled for 40 years. He ruled in Hebron over Judah for seven and a half years, and in Jerusalem over all Israel and Judah for 33 years. (2 Samuel 5:4-5)

Hebron was now too far south to be an effective administrative base so David decided to make the more central Jerusalem his capital. Jerusalem was a Phoenician city, inhabited by a Phoenician people called the Jebusites. David attacked the city and managed to occupy part of the eastern hillside outside the walls. This surprisingly tiny area is still called Davidís City today and is still outside the city walls. The Phoenicians still lived in the city proper within the walls and much later when David wanted a site to build the temple on, he had to buy land from the Jebusite Araunah at a cost of 50 pieces of silver.

Solomonís Temple

David was not to build the temple. After his death, Hiram continued to maintain friendly relations with Davidís son, Solomon, who explained:

You know that because of the constant wars my father David had to fight against the enemy countries all round him, he could not build a temple for the worship of the Lord his God until the Lord had given him victory over all his enemies. But now the Lord my God has given me peace on all my borders. I have no enemies, and there is no danger of attack. The Lord promised my father David, ĎYour son, whom I will make king after you, will build a temple for meí and I have now decided to build that temple for the worship of the Lord my God. (1 Kings 5:3)

Solomonís temple follows the traditional Phoenician design: an outer hallway or ulam, a central open courtyard or heikal, and an inner holy of holies or debir. There were two pillars outside the front entrance and rooms for temple staff in an annex.

Not much archaeological excavation on Phoenician temples has been carried out. The reason for this seems to be that archaeologists and historians are generally more interested in Greek, Roman and Hebrew history than in Phoenician. Why? All European civilisation is believed to have stemmed from ancient Greece and Rome. Monotheism is believed to have originated from the Hebrews. At any rate, once researchers reach the Greek, Roman or Hebrew layers, they tend not to look further down. For example, it is known that there are much older Phoenician temples under the Roman ones at Baalbek but only one deep ditch has been dug to tell us anything about them. However, excavation of the 13th century BC Phoenician temple at Hazor and the 9th century one at Tell Tainat shows that Solomonís temple follows exactly the time-honoured Phoenician pattern.

There was a magnificent temple to Melqart/Baal right in the centre of Tyre. All Phoenician temples incorporated two pillars: originally a wooden one for Astarte and a stone one for Baal. According to the ancient historian Herodotus, the Tyrian temple had one emerald pillar and one of gold. The emerald one may have been green Phoenician glass though given the wealth of Tyre may well have actually been emerald. It had a candle inside so that it shone at night: the green obviously symbolises a tree so the emerald pillar must have represented Astarteís wooden column. The gold one symbolised the wealth given by the earth, gold being then the most precious metal to come out of stone, just as it is now.

There is some material evidence of the pillars, too. Clay models of Phoenician temples from the beginning of the first millennium (the time of Hiram, David and Solomon) show the two columns at the temple entrance. Moreover, temples in Cyprus, Samaria, Megiddo, Hazor and Ramat Rahel all had Phoenician-style capitals for their pillars.Lever and Outside of Temple

The Old Testament description of Solomon's temple gives an idea of what the Tyrian temples must have been like. Probably they were even more magnificent - Hiram would hardly have built something better for Solomon than he had built for himself.

Solomonís temple was built by Phoenician master craftsmen alongside Hebrew workmen and 30,000 unskilled navvies pressed by Solomon into forced labour. In an attempt to establish that the land was Hebrew not Phoenician, the Bible calls these people foreigners. But they were not foreign; they were the Phoenician residents of Judah and Israel. In a move reminiscent of the way the Hebrews had been treated in Egypt, Solomon made them work as slaves for a month on and two months off in shifts of 10,000 at a time.

At the end of every war, at the beginning of periods of peace, the Phoenician sagas say:

I have a tale and I will tell it,
a word and I will repeat it,
a tale of wood and a whisper of stone,
a tale that mankind may know
and that the multitudes of the earth may understand...

This is what happened with Solomon. Davidís wars were over, peace reigned, and Solomonís story is not about slingshots, spears, bows and swords but about wood and stone - and metal.


When he was ready to build the temple, Solomon wrote to Hiram:

So send your men to Lebanon to cut down cedars for me. My men will work with them, and I will pay your men whatever you decided. As you well know, my men donít know how to cut down trees as well as yours do. (1 Kings 5:6)

Then Hiram sent Solomon the following message: "I have received your message and I am ready to do what you ask. I will provide the cedars and the pine trees. My men will bring the logs down from Lebanon to the sea, and will tie them together in rafts to float them down the coast to the place you choose. There my men will untie them and your men will take charge of them. On your part, I would like you to supply the food for my men." (1 Kings 5:8-10).

Solomon wrote:

I know how skillful your woodmen are, so send me cedar, cypress, and juniper logs from Lebanon. I am ready to send my men to assist yours in preparing large quantities of timber, because this temple I intend to build will be large and magnificent. As provisions for your workmen, I will send you two thousand tonnes of wheat, two thousand tonnes of barley, four hundred thousand litres of wine, and four hundred thousand litres of olive oil. (2 Chronicles 2:8-10)

And Hiram replied:

In the mountains of Lebanon we will cut down all the cedars you need, bind them together in rafts, and float them by sea as far as Joppa. From there you can take them to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 2:16)

The cedars used for the temple were taken from Barouk in the Chouf Mountain area, as oral tradition in Lebanon still maintains. Apart from cutting down the trees and trimming them, it must have been an enormous task transporting them from Barouk down the mountains to the coast.

The carpenters and woodcarvers worked hard too. The whole interior of the temple was panelled in cedar, the roofs were cedar, the floors were pine. Everything was carved with gourds, flowers, fruit, palm trees and cherubim.

He put in a ceiling made of beams and boards of cedar. The three-storied annexe, each storey 2.2 metres high, was built against the outside walls of the temple, and was joined to them by cedar beams. (1 Kings 6:9)

The inside walls were covered with cedar panels from the floor to the ceiling, and the floor was made of pine. An inner room, called the Holy of Holies, was built in the rear of the temple. It was 9 metres long and was partitioned off by cedar boards reaching from the floor to the ceiling. (1 Kings 6:15-16)

The cedar panels were decorated with carvings of gourds and flowers; the whole interior was covered with cedar, so that the stones of the walls could not be seen. (1 Kings 6:18)

The altar was covered with cedar panels. (1 Kings 6:20)

Tyre was famous for its purple dye and Sidon for its embroidered cloth. Embroidered linen dyed with Phoenician purple was used in the Holy of Holies:

A curtain for the Holy of Holies was made of linen and of other material, which was dyed blue, purple, and red, with designs of the winged creatures worked into it. (2 Chronicles 3:14)


The temple was built of stone quarried and prepared by masons from the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Jbail (Byblos). The stones were cut in the quarry: the Bible tells us not a hammer was heard on the building site as the stones had been shaped so perfectly that they slotted together without being banged into place. The Phoenicians always used huge stones for foundations because the Levant is located on the Great Rift Valley - the big stones helped make buildings earthquake-proof.

The master mason was the architect, too, and had to know geometry. Masonsí knowledge was kept secret, known at any given time only to three people.

The modern Freemasonsí Society developed from the Phoenician masons, which is why their rituals are kept secret. The Freemasons' name the chief mason working on the temple as Huram Abiff, son of a Tyrian widow, presumably the same person as Huram the widowís son who did the metalwork. One of the Freemasonsí rituals is a re-enactment of the mugging and murder of Huram in the temple by Israelite workmen who wanted to extract the secrets of architectural design and construction from him. The ritual drama has his assailants attacking Huram at each corner of the temple with buildersí tools before they finally kill him because he wonít hand over the secret knowledge.

Inside the Temple: Holy Place

At King Solomonís command they quarried fine large stones for the foundation of the temple. Solomonís and Hiramís workmen and men from the city of Byblos prepared the stones and the timber to build the temple. (1 Kings 5:17-18)

The temple was quite small but none the less impressive:

Inside it was 27 metres long, 9 metres wide, and 13.5 metres high. The entrance room was 4.5 metres deep and 9 metres wide, as wide as the sanctuary itself. The walls of the temple had openings in them, narrower on the outside than on the inside. Against the outside walls, on the sides and the back of the temple, a three-storied annexe was built, each storey 2.2 metres high. Each room in the lowest storey was 2.2 metres wide, in the middle storey 2.7 metres wide, and in the top storey 3.1 metres wide. The temple wall on each floor was thinner than on the floor below so that the rooms could rest on the wall without having their beams built into it. The stones with which the temple was built had been prepared at the quarry, so that there was no noise made by hammers, axes, or any other iron tools as the temple was being built. The entrance to the lowest storey of the annexe was on the south side of the temple, with stairs leading up to the second and third storeys. So King Solomon finished building the temple. (1 Kings 6:2-9)

An inner court was built in front of the temple, enclosed with walls which had one layer of cedar beams for every three layers of stone. (1 Kings 6:36)


The inner sanctuary and altar of Solomon's temple were overlaid with gold. The doors were olive and pine wood, also carved and covered in gold.

In the rear of the temple an inner room was built, where the Lordís Covenant Box was to be placed. This inner room was 9 metres long, 9 metres wide, and 9 metres high, all covered with pure gold. (1 Kings 6:19)

The inside of the temple was covered with gold, and gold chains were placed across the entrance f the inner room, which was also covered with gold. The whole interior of the temple was covered with gold, as well as the altar in the Holy of Holies. (1 Kings 6:21-22)

Even the floor was covered with gold. (1 Kings 6:30)

A metalworker called Huram from Tyre did the bronze work:

King Solomon sent for a man named Huram, a craftsman living in the city of Tyre, who was skilled in bronze work. His father, who was no longer living, was from Tyre, and had also been a skilled bronze craftsman; his mother was from the tribe of Naphtali. Huram was an intelligent and experienced craftsman. He accepted King Solomonís invitation to be in charge of all the bronze work. (1 Kings 7:13-14)

Solomon wrote to Hiram of Tyre:

Now send me a man with skill in engraving, in working gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and in making blue, purple and red cloth. He will work with the craftsmen of Judah and Jerusalem whom my father David selected. (2 Chronicles 2:7)

Hiram replied:

I am sending you a wise and skillful master craftsman named Huram. His mother was a member of the tribe of Dan and his father was a native of Tyre. He knows how to make things out of gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone and wood. He can work with blue, purple, and red cloth, and with linen. He can do all sorts of engraving and can follow any design suggested to him. Let him work with your skilled workers and with those who worked for your father, King David. So now send us the wheat, barley, wine and olive oil that you promised. (2 Chronicles 2: 13-15)

Huram cast two bronze columns, each one 8 metres tall and 5.3 metres in circumference, and placed them at the entrance of the temple. He also made two bronze capitals, each one 2.2. metres tall, to be placed on top of the columns. The top of each column was decorated with a design of interwoven chains, and two rows of bronze pomegranates. The capitals were shaped like lilies, 1.8 metres tall, and were placed on a rounded section which was above the chain design. There were 200 bronze pomegranates in two rows round each capital. Huram placed these two bronze columns in front of the entrance of the Temple: the one on the south side was named Jachin (he establishes), and the one on the north was named Boaz (by his strength). The lily-shaped bronze capitals were on top of the columns. And so the work on the columns was completed. (1 Kings 7:15-22)

Huram made a round tank of bronze, 2.2. metres deep, 4.4. metres in diameter, and 13.2 metres in circumference. All round the outer edge of the rim of the tank were two rows of bronze gourds, which had been cast all in one piece with the rest of the tank. The tank rested on the backs of twelve bronze bulls that faced outwards, three facing in each direction. The sides of the tank were 75 millimetres thick. Its rim was like the rim of a cup, curving outwards like the petals of a lily. The tank held about 40,000 litres. (1 Kings 7:23-26)

Huram also made ten bronze carts; each was 1.8 metres long, 1.8 metres wide and 1.3 metres high. They were made of square panels which were set in frames, with the figures of lions, bulls, and winged creatures on the panels; and on the frames, above and underneath the lions and bulls, there were spiral figures in relief. Each cart had four bronze wheels with bronze axles. At the four corners were bronze supports for a basin; the supports were decorated with spiral figures in relief. There was a circular frame on top for the basin. It projected upwards 45 centimetres from the top of the cart and 18 centimetres down into it. It had carvings round it. The wheels were 66 centimetres high; they were under the panels, and the axles were of one piece with the carts. The wheels were like chariot wheels; their axles, rims, spokes, and hubs were all of bronze. There were four supports at the bottom corners of each cart, which were of one piece with the cart. There was a 22 centimetre band round the top of each cart; its supports and the panels were of one piece with the cart. The supports and panels were decorated with figures of winged creatures, lions, and palm trees, wherever there was space for them, with spiral figures all round. This, then, is how the carts were made; they were all alike, having the same size and shape. (1 Kings 7 27-37)

Huram also made ten basins, one for each cart. Each basin was 1.8 metres in diameter, and held about 800 litres. He placed five of the carts on the south side of the temple, and the other five on the north side; the tank he placed at the south-east corner. (1 Kings 7:38-39)

Huram also made pots, shovels, and bowls. He completed all this work for King Solomon for the Lordís temple. This is what he made:

  • The two columns
  • The two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the columns
  • The design of interwoven chains on each capital
  • The 400 bronze pomegranates, in two rows of a hundred each round the design on each capital
  • The ten carts
  • The ten basins
  • The tank
  • The twelve bulls supporting the tank
  • The pots, shovels and bowls

All this equipment for the temple, which Huram made for King Solomon, was of polished bronze. The king had it all made in the foundry between Sukkoth and Zarethan, in the Jordan Valley. (1 Kings 7:40-46)

The pots, shovels and bowls: the Bible details as:

30 gold basins, 1000 silver basins, 30 golden bowls, 40 silver bowls, and 1029 other vessels. He covered the altar in gold and manufactured gold flowers, lamps, snuffers, tongs, cups, incense dishes, pans to hold burning charcoal, and hinges for the inner and outer doors

.Most Holy Place

Solomon also had gold furnishings made for the temple; the altar, the table for the bread offered to God, the ten lampstands that stood in front of the Holy of Holies, five on the south side and five on the north; the flowers, lamps, and tongs; the cups, lamp snuffers, bowls, dishes for incense, and the pans used for carrying live coals; and the hinges for the doors of the Holy of Holies and of the outer doors of the temple. All these furnishings were made of gold. (1 Kings 7 48-50)

The temple which King Solomon built was 27 metres long and 9 metres wide. The entrance room was the full width of the temple, 9 metres, and was 54 metres high. The inside of the room was overlaid with pure gold. the main room was panelled with cedar and overlaid with fine gold, in which were worked designs of palm trees and chain patterns. The king decorated the temple with beautiful precious stones and with gold imported from the land of Parvaim. He used the gold to overlay the temple walls, the rafters, the thresholds, and the doors. On the walls the workers carved designs of winged creatures. The inner room, called the Holy of Holies, was 9 metres long and 9 metres wide, which was the full width of the temple. Over 20 tonnes of gold were used to cover the walls of the Holy of Holies. 570 grammes of gold were used for making nails, and the walls of the upper rooms were also covered in gold. The king also ordered his workers to make two winged creatures out of metal, cover them with gold, and place them in the Holy of Holies, where they stood side by side facing the entrance. Each had two wings, each wing 2.2. metres long, which were spread out so that they touched each other in the centre of the room and reached the wall on either side of the room, stretching across the full width of about 9 metres. (2 Chronicles 3:3-13)

The king made two columns, each one 15.5 metres tall, and placed them in front of the temple. Each one had a capital 2.2. metres tall. The tops of the columns were decorated with a design of interwoven chains and one hundred bronze pomegranates. The columns were set at the sides of the temple entrance: the one on the south side was named Jachin, and the one on the north side was named Boaz. (2 Chronicles 3:15-17)

King Solomon had a bronze altar made, which was 9 metres square and 4.5 metres high. He also made a round tank of bronze, 2.2 metres deep, 4.4. metres in diameter, and 13.2 metres in circumference. All round the outer edge of the rim of the tank were two rows of decorations, one above the other. The decorations were in the shape of bulls, which had been cast all in one piece with the rest of the tank. The tank rested on the backs of twelve bronze bulls that faced outwards, three facing in each direction. The sides of the tank were 75 millimetres thick. Its rim was like the rim of a cup, curving outwards like the petals of a flower. The tank held about 60,000 litres.

They also made ten basins, five to be placed on the south side of the temple and five on the north side. They were to be used to rinse the parts of the animals that were burnt as sacrifices. The water in the large tank was for the priests to use for washing.

They made ten gold lampstands according to the usual pattern, and ten tables, and placed them in the main room of the temple, five lamp-stands and five tables on each side.

They also made a hundred gold bowls.

They made an inner courtyard for the priests, and also an outer courtyard. The doors in the gates between the courtyards were covered with bronze. The tank was placed near the south-east corner of the temple.

Huram also made pots, shovels, and bowls. He completed all the objects that he had promised King Solomon he would make for the temple:

  • The two columns
  • The two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the columns
  • The design of interwoven chains on each capital
  • The 400 bronze pomegranates arranged in two rows round the design of each capital
  • The ten carts
  • The ten basins
  • The tank
  • The twelve bulls supporting the tank
  • The pots, shovels and forks

Huram the master craftsman made all these objects out of polished bronze, as King Solomon had commanded, for use in the temple of the Lord. The king had them all made in the foundry between Sukkoth and Zeredah in the Jordan Valley. (2 Chronicles 4:1-17)

King Solomon also had gold furnishings made for the temple: the altar and the tables for the bread offered to God; the lampstands and the lamps of fine gold that were to burn in front of the Holy of Holies, according to plan; the flower decorations, the lamps, and the tongs; the lamp snuffers, the bowls, the dishes for incense, and the pans used for carrying live coals. All these objects were made of pure gold. The outer doors of the temple and the doors to the Holy of Holies were overlaid with gold. (2 Chronicles 4:19-22)

Two winged creatures were made of olive wood and placed in the Holy of Holies, each one 4.4 metres tall. Both were of the same size and shape. Each had two wings, each wing 2.2 metres long, so that the distance from one wing tip to the other was 4.4. metres. They were placed side by side in the Holy of Holies, so that two of their outstretched wings touched each other in the middle of the room, and the other two wings touched the walls. The two winged creatures were covered with gold. The walls of the main room and of the inner room were all decorated with carved figures of winged creatures, palm trees, and flowers... A double door made of olive wood was set in place at the entrance of the Holy of Holies; the top of the doorway was a pointed arch. The doors were decorated with carved figures of winged creatures, palm trees, and flowers. The doors, the winged creatures, and the palm trees were covered with gold. For the entrance to the main room a rectangular door-frame of olive wood was made. There were two folding doors made of pine and decorated with carved figures of winged creatures, palm trees, and flowers, which were evenly covered with gold. (1 Kings 6: 23-35)

King Hiram seems to have been given a bit of a raw deal by Solomon:

King Hiram of Tyre had provided him with all the cedar and pine and with all the gold he wanted for this work. After it was finished, King Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the region of Galilee. Hiram went to see them, and he did not like them. So he said to Solomon, "So these, my brother, are the towns you have given me!" For this reason the area is still called Cabul (worthless). (1 Kings 8:10-13)

The temple was finished in 960 BC, having taken seven years to build. Though Solomon at this time thought enough of his god Yahweh to build this magnificent temple in his honour, in later life he worshipped the Phoenician gods instead.

All the contents of the temple were taken off as loot when Judah was conquered by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC. The Persians, whose empire succeeded that of the Babylonians, restored some of the treasures:

Cyrus gave them back the bowls and cups that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and had put in the temple of his gods. He handed them over to Mithredath, chief of the royal treasury, who made an inventory of them for Sheshbazzar, the governor of Judah, as follows:

  • gold bowls for offerings 30
  • silver bowls for offerings 1,000
  • other bowls 29
  • small gold bowls 30
  • small silver bowls 410
  • other utensils 1,000

In all there were 5,400 gold and silver bowls and other articles which Sheshbazzar took with him when he and the other exiles went from Babylon to Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:7-11)

Solomonís Palace and his Egyptian Wifeís Palace

Solomonís two palaces took much longer to complete than the temple:

Solomon also built a palace for himself, and it took him thirteen years. The Hall of the Forest of Lebanon was 44 metres long, 22 metres wide, and 13.5 metres high. It had three rows of cedar pillars, fifteen in each row, with cedar beams resting on them. The ceiling was of cedar, extending over store-rooms, which were supported by the pillars. In each of the two side walls there were three rows of windows. The doorways and windows had rectangular frames, and the three rows of windows in each wall faced the opposite rows. The Hall of Columns was 22 metres long and 13.5 metres wide. It had a covered porch, supported by columns. The Throne Room, also called the Hall of Judgement, where Solomon decided cases, had cedar panels from the floor to the rafters. Solomonís own quarters, in another court behind the Hall of Judgement, were made like the other buildings. He also built the same kind of house for his wife, the daughter of the king of Egypt. (1 Kings 7:1-8)

All these buildings and the great court were made of fine stones from the foundations to the eaves. The stones were prepared at the quarry and cut to measure, with their inner and outer sides trimmed with saws. The foundations were made of large stones prepared at the quarry, some of them 3.5 metres long and others 4 metres long. On top of them were other stones, cut to measure, and cedar beams. The palace court, the inner court of the temple, and the entrance room of the temple had walls with one layer of cedar beams for every three layers of cut stone. (1 Kings 7:9-12)

The Second Temple

Solomonís temple was completely destroyed in 587 BC by the Babylonians when they captured Jerusalem. When the Persian Empire took over from the Babylonian Empire, King Cyrus allowed the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem and build a second temple on the site of the first. King Herod the Great, who ruled from 37-4 BC, restored the second temple. This is why he restored the temple treasures.

One of the main activities of tourists throughout the ages has always been looking at and admiring ancient buildings. On the other hand, locals all over the Middle East generally find their old buildings embarrassing - signs of an old-fashioned past theyíd prefer to forget. They like to look at and admire new, modern buildings, which they regard as signs of progress. Jesusí disciples, therefore, during their last visit to Jerusalem with Jesus, admired Herodís recently renovated second temple:

Jesus left and was going away from the temple when his disciples came to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Yes," he said, "you may well look at all these. I tell you this: not a single stone here will be left in its place; every one of them will be thrown down." (Matthew 24:1-2)

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said, "Look, teacher! What wonderful stones and buildings!" Jesus answered, "You see these great buildings? Not a single stone here will be left in its place; every one of them will be thrown down." (Mark 13::1-2)

Some of the disciples were talking about the temple, how beautiful it looked with its fine stones and the gifts offered to God. Jesus said: "All that you see - the time will come when not a single stone here will be left in its place, every one will be thrown down." (Luke 21:5-6)

As He predicted, the second temple was razed to the ground. It was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and has never been rebuilt. All that remains is the foundation of the west wall. Jews go there to lament the second templeís destruction so it is now known as the wailing wall. The blocks of stone are huge, following the Phoenician model.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014