king solomon's temple
Bro. J. W. Proudfoot
Published in Selected Papers, Vol. 2,
United Masters Lodge, No. 167,
You will have observed how deeply impressive it is to stand on the
site of some historic happening; how the imagination takes flight
and clothe the shadowy people of the time in flesh and blood, giving
them feeling and personality.
In such a way began my interest in King Solomon's Temple during
wartime visits to its site. Since then my curiosity has grown as the
light of Masonic knowledge has illuminated the character of its
One may in these days stand on the site of the Temple, and reflect
that the landscape may have altered in detail since King Solomon in
all his glory sat as Grand Master, but the broad outline has not
changed. The buildings which now stand within the Temple area look
out to the same view as could once be seen from the porch of the
Stand facing the east, and to the left is the sweep of Mount Scopus.
Straight ahead, and deeply below is the valley of the Kidron, for
uncounted centuries a vast cemetery of whited sepulchres. On the
other side of this gully of death rises the steep ridge of the Mount
of Olives, and behind that, you will know, lies the frightened and
tumbling wilderness falling down in sharp sterile rides to the
Jordan Valley, Jericho and the Dead Sea. To your right you see the
barren hills of Judea stretching over towards Bethlehem, about five
miles away. The right about turn, and you see the Old City of
Jerusalem below and about you, rising not far off to the hill of
Zion. That, you reflect, is the site of the fort captured by King
David, the fort which was soon to become Royal David's City.
Jerusalem is built on the hilltops. It seemed to me that it might
have been built as a reasonably spaced city and then encompassed by
its massive elastic wall, which in contracting, compressed hills,
buildings and streets into a tight confused conglomeration.
The only expanse of open ground now within the walls is the
stone-paved area of the Temple, eleven acres in extent. On it, in
magnificent isolation stands the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the
The great octagonal building stands on a platform rising above the
level of the Temple area. From the inside this is a magnificent
dome. Stained glass windows, the patterns rigidly geometrical,
suffused a richly dim light down to the sumptuous Turkish and
Persian rugs spread about the floor. Pillars supporting the dome are
of marble of many colours, salvaged from the ruins of Roman
Jerusalem. Most of them retain their ancient capitals, and
strangely, the Cross of early Christendom. Concentric with the outer
walls stands a high grille of finely wrought iron; my memory says it
was about seven feet high.
It was the life work of a Crusader, during the eighty-odd years in
the Twelfth Century that mark the only period of Christian control
of the Holy City.
Within the screen, quite startling as a variation from the formal
symmetry of the rest of the building, stands the Rock for which the
dome was built. This is the summit of Mount Moriah, projecting in
its natural state through the flat expanse of the Temple area,
through the twelve-foot platform on which the mosque stands, and
roughly natural, through the symmetry of the floor itself.
The Bible tells us how the Angel of the Lord stood on Mount Moriah
with outstretched sword to destroy David's new city with pestilence.
Then David walked over from Mount Zion towards Mount Moriah,
accompanied by his servants. Not a great distance, just down into
the valley and up the other side. Araunah was at work threshing
wheat, I imagine in much the way they do it now, with oxen drawing a
sledge affair round and around over the grain spread out on the hard
ground. His four sons were working with him, but when they saw the
Angel of the Lord, they bolted. Araunah stood his ground. When King
David reached the hilltop, Araunah made his bow, and asked "To what
do I owe the honour of this visit?" or words to that effect. The
King replied that he wanted to buy the threshing area as a site for
an altar. Araunah must have been in a somewhat subdued frame of
mind, what with his visits from the Angel of the Lord and the King
in quick succession, because there followed some Oriental bargaining
in reverse which rather tickles my fancy. Araunah said, "Take it for
nothing! Furthermore, take the oxen for sacrifice, and the threshing
tools for wood to make a fire to burn them, and the wheat as a food
sacrifice." But King David replied that he would give a fair price,
that he wouldn't make a sacrifice of something that had cost him
nothing. So he bought the land, and the oxen, and made a sacrifice.
In one account we read that the price was fifty shekels of silver,
in another six hundred shekels of gold. No matter. The site of the
Temple was bought and paid for.
There is no question that this rock is the site of David's altar, or
that the rock or the ground surrounding it became the foundation of
the Temple of King Solomon. The rock itself is one of the few
Biblical sites in Jerusalem readily identifiable on the unbuilt
surface, and the temple area where grew around it has never been
used for general building. Solomon's Temple was built in about 966
B.C., and stood until it was cast to the flames by Nebuchadnezzar in
586 B.C., about 380 years later. In fifty years another but less
beautiful temple of Zerubbabel arose, to stand until Herod the Great
began twenty years before the Birth of Christ to restore the Temple
to its former architectural glory. Herod's temple was not finally
completed until thirty-four years after the Crucifixion, and eight
years after that date it disappeared in flames forever "so that no
one stone remained upon another."
But the Temple site remained unbuilt. When the Moslems came in the
six hundreds of the Christian era, flushed with the impetus of
conquest under Mohammed, the Temple area was a rubbish dump. It had
not been built on. From the rock, the Moslem guide tells you, the
Prophet rose to Heaven on the back of his black steed El Baruk,
which means "Lightening." and over the rock, shortly after
Mohammed's death in 632 A.D. the present Dome of the Rock arose from
its platform. It has been renovated once since that tine, in the
eleven hundreds, by Christian Crusaders. It was about due, they told
me in 1942, for another structural overhaul.
So much for the site of the Temple. It has taken much of my time to
tell you of it. But these things seem to me to be important. First,
we know beyond doubt that the Dome of the Rock shelters the summit
of Mount Moriah, which, as the V.S.L. tells us, was the site of the
Temple. Then we should remember that the Temple was David's vision.
He bought the site for it, set aside enormous amount of treasure for
is enrichment and the materials for its erection, and left his son
Solomon clear injunction that the building of the Temple was his
number one priority construction job. And finally on this part of
the subject, the great mosque I have spent so much time describing
is truly the ghost of the Temples that preceded it, a shrine to
honour the One God, set up by those who, with us, honour King
Solomon for his wisdom and splendour.
To conclude, may I tell you of one visit I made to a site which I
have since discovered to be of pre-eminent interest to Freemasons
wherever they may be. It is a great underground quarry, rediscovered
only about a hundred years ago, whence came the stone for the Temple
and the other magnificent buildings of King Solomon's Jerusalem. The
caverns are reached form a point outside the present city wall, and
stretch great distances under the city itself and towards the site
of the Temple. They are pure white inside, and no place for the
short-sighted or the stumbler. Chasms and cliffs fall away to lower
workings, to more distant and deeper caverns. On every hand is the
sign of workmen. You can see how the stone was broken from the bed,
how it was passed at once to the masons who shaped and smoothed it.
The floor is in many places feet deep in tons of chips. And you can
see how it went then straight into the daylight ready to take its
place in the building of the Temple.
The marks of the workmen's tools, the chisels of Hiram's Phoenician
stone-cutters may still be seen there in the echoing caverns.
The stone from these quarries is pure white, and soft to work, but
hardens rapidly on exposure to the air. Here then is a purely
logical and practical reason why the stones were shaped in the
quarries. They had to be, otherwise they got too hard! And here also
is the reason for the stress laid by the Biblical historians on the
fact that "....there was heard neither hammer nor axe nor any tool
of iron in the House, while it was in building." The quarry was
right close to the Temple, in fact, almost underneath it. Yet no
matter how earnestly those in the streets of the city above might
have listened for the sound of hammers, they could not have heard
I have read that in these days Mosaic meetings are held in the
caverns, and a more appropriate, impressive and evocative setting
would be difficult to imagine.
The memory of that place gives me still a feeling of familiarity
with Solomon's masons. The recollection of their quarry and their
chisel marks turn them from shadows in a dim and long past age into
men of muscle, heart and brain.
One reflects that for the component parts of such a building as the
Temple, each one prepared by hand, to be so perfect as to be ready
for placing in position with the aid of no tool other than a lever
or maul, each and every craftsman must have taken a pride in his
skill, and in the production of a perfectly finished article.
To the speculative Mason the veil of allegory is transparent, the
symbols plain and clear. By precept and example, the idea that a man
may mould his own life in the manner of the expert mason who bends
his best efforts to the shaping of a stone, may be passed don to
other men. And in this way, the Antient Free, and Accepted Masons
have their part to play in the Architecture of the Universe.
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