The Enigma of Solomon's Temple


1207 Foursome Lane 
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455

   For centuries Christians, Jews, archaeologists, biblical
scholars and Masons worldwide have attempted to construct a model
of King Solomon's famous Temple. As described in I Kings and II
Chronicles in the Old Testament, the details are incomplete and am-
biguous.  A recently discovered Dead Sea Scroll has clarified many
of the 3000-year-old enigmas.

  After Moses had received the two stone tablets inscribed with the
Ten Commandments, he was commanded by God to build an Ark to hold
the Decalogue.  For almost 500 years the Israelites kept the Ark of
the Covenant in a tent-like tabernacle erected in accordance with
God's orders. One day King David declared, "Lo, I dwell in a house
of cedar but the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord remaineth under
curtains."  There- after David commenced to amass gold, silver and
the materials to build a "House of the Lord."  Since the Levites
had always been re- sponsible for the Ark, he desig- nated 38,000
of them over age 30 as follows:

      24,000 to supervise construction of the Temple
      6,000 to be officers and judges
      4,000 to be Temple guards, and
      4,000 to be musicians.

Those between ages 21 and 30 were assigned to assist the priests,
perform ceremonial purification and custodial duties.  Those desig-
nated as priests were all descen- dants of Aaron, the original high
priest.  However, God forbade David to build "His House" since
David had been a warrior and had shed blood.  David designated his
son, Solomon, to succeed him and provided him with detailed plans
for "the Temple and its surround- ings─the porch, courts, houses,
inside rooms, upper chambers, storage areas, treasuries, utensils."
However, not all of these entities are adequately described in I
Kings and II Chronicles even though they are alluded to several
times throughout the Old Testament.

  Solomon succeeded David in 961 B.C. and reigned for 40 years. He
initially took a census of all foreigners in his kingdom and
indentured 153,300 of them to construct the Temple.  Assisted by
Hiram, King of Tyre, construction commenced on Mount Moriah in
Jerusalem in 957 B.C.  The dimen- sions provided in the Old Testa-
ment are mostly interior measure- ments expressed in cubits, a
cubit being approximately 18 inches. The following description is
ex- pressed in linear feet in order to provide a more familiar
visualiza- tion.

  The House of the Lord was 90 feet long by 30 feet wide divided
into two separate chambers.  See figure 1.  The eastern chamber, 60
feet by  30 feet (and probably  30 feet high) was called the Holy
Place.  The only interior details provided were ten golden tables
and ten golden lampstands placed on either side.  Biblical
references to women's, men's and priests' courts were postulated by
some to be located within the Holy Place. The western chamber was
the Holy of Holies, a 30 foot by 30 foot room 30 feet high.  This
chamber contained the hallowed Ark of the Covenant, a shewbread
table, a menorah and an incense altar (possibly outside)─all made
of gold.  Two carved wood angels, 15 feet tall with wingspans of 15
feet, stood side by side with their faces turned towards the Ark.
They were overlaid with gold and their combined wingspans extend-
ed from wall to wall.  The en- trance from the Holy Place was
through two folding, golden doors. A crimson and blue veil
decorated with angels was draped from ceil- ing to floor to
separate the two chambers.  The House throughout had cypress floors
and cedar pan- elling inlaid with gold and jewels. The only
entrance was at the East end through two golden doors.

  A partially covered vestibule (porch) 30 feet wide and 10 feet
high extended 15 feet out from the East end.  See figure 2.  Two
35- foot-high bronze pillars, 5.5 feet in diameter designated
Jachin and Boaz, were placed on either side of the porch.  The
capitals of the pillars were lily-shaped and flared into a
45-foot-high roof.  The two capitals were adorned with bronze
chains hung with 400 bronze pomegranates and surmounted with two

  On both sides and around the rear of the House were about ninety
annexes (chambers) ar- ranged in three stories of thirty chambers
each.  See figure 3, next page. The second and third stories were
supported by timbers resting on the stepped exterior of the outer
wall.  The annex rooms were each 7.5 feet high and varied in width
from 7.5 feet on the first story, 9 feet on the second and 10.5
feet on the third; their length was unspecified.  It was postulated
that these small chambers were living quarters for the priests.
The Bible mentions that access to the upper chambers was from the
North side of the House via a winding stairway.  The description
thus far is based on texts from the Bible.  In 1967 the Israelis
ac- quired a Dead Sea Scroll which was ultimately to be designated
the "Temple Scroll."  After nine years of painstaking analysis and
translation of the badly damaged, 30-feet-long leather scroll by
Yagael Yadin, it was determined to have been written about 150 B.C.
It detailed the construction of the Temple and prescribed ritu- als
and procedures.

  According to this document, the House of the Lord was enclosed by
three concentric courts.  See figure 4, page 50.  The Outer
(Women's) Court was a square enclosure 2,400 feet on each side.
Three equally spaced gates were installed in each side.  See figure
5, page 51.  Each gate was 75 feet by 75 feet and 105 feet high.
The twelve gates were individually named for the twelve sons of Ja-
cob.  Outside each gate was a twelve-step terrace.  Re- cent
excava- tions in Jeru- salem have un- earthed one such terrace. The
Scroll explicitly lists the assignment of priests, Le- vites and
all other tribes of Israel to each section of the three-story Outer
Court. The public, women and children, were permitted to enter the
Outer Court.

  The Middle (Men's) Court was 720 feet on each side and was
probably two stories high.  Each side had "cells made into the
walls."  No other details were retrievable.

  Each side had three equally spaced gates 42 feet by 42 feet
(height unknown,) and they were named for the twelve sons of Ja-
cob.  A winding stairway in each gate provided access to the second
story.  Only Israeli men over age 20 were permitted to enter the
Middle Court.

  The Inner (Priest's) Court was 420 feet on each side with a
single gate named for the four points of the compass in each side.
A col- onnade porch provided a covering for tables and chairs
arranged on all sides.  At each corner was a cooking place or
kitchen.  Accord- ing to the description in I Kings, "He built the
inner court with three rows of hewed stone and a row of cedar
beams."  Only priests were permitted to enter the Inner Court.

  Within the Inner Court, the "House of the Lord" and the fol-
lowing other structures (see figure 3, page 49) were all enclosed
inside of a 4.5-foot-high parapet. The "House of the Winding Stair"
(stairhouse,) was a 30-foot by 30- foot structure adjacent to the
northwest corner of the "House." A square 6-foot-wide winding
stairway provided access to the second and third stories of the
upper chambers (annexes) and to the roof of the House via bridges.
The Scroll reveals that the annex- es were actually storerooms and
treasuries.  The walls of the stairhouse were inlaid with gold
since it was in proximity to the Holy of Holies.  Similar winding
stairways have been discovered at Masada and Dor.

  Adjacent to the southeast corner of the House was the House of
the Laver, a 31.5-foot by 31.5-foot, 30- foot-high structure
containing a 15-foot-diameter bronze "Molten Sea" (tank)
7.5-feet-high support- ed on the backs of twelve bronze oxen.  Here
the priests changed clothes and washed before and after sacrifices.
Ten feet directly East of the Laver House was a structure of
identical dimensions identified as the "House of the Altar
Utensils" where sacrificial implements were stored.

  Located 75 feet East of the Laver House was the bronze sacri-
ficial Altar supported by rough hewned stones.  North of the Altar
was the pillared "Slaughter House" for the processing of oxen prior
to sacrificial burning on the Altar. Between the House of the Lord
and the West Gate was a similar pillar-supported "Stoa" used for
the separate preparation of sheep and goats to be sacrificed for
the sins and guilt of the people.

  The Temple was completed in seven years, but thirteen more years
were required to complete Solomon's Palace, Hall of Judge- ment
(Throne Room), Hall of Pil- lars, Living Quarters and the Great
Court (possibly the Outer Court).

  The Temple was dedicated in 937 B.C. during an eight-day cere-
mony consuming 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep and goats for sacri-
fice and feasting.

  In 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, captured
Jerusalem, looted and destroyed the Temple and enslaved the Isra-
elites.  The "Second Temple" was constructed by Zerubbabel about
516 B.C. after Cyrus, the Persian, vanquished  Nebuchadnezzar  and
eventually freed the Israelites.  It was not as grandiose and
expan- sive as the "First Temple" and possibly consisted only of
the House of the Lord, the Inner court and its various "Houses."
But there was no Ark since it disap- peared or was destroyed when
Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusa- lem.  Herod the Great dismantled
the Second Temple and construct- ed a magnificent Temple in 20 B.C.
in an attempt to glorify Jeru- salem and his name.  It was ulti-
mately demolished by the Roman Emperor Titus in 70 A.D.

  Today it is the site of the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat Es-Sakhra)
built in 691 A.D. to commemorate Muhammad's ascent to heaven from
that spot.  The ancient Wail- ing Wall, considered to be one of the
most sacred places of all to the Jews, is a portion of the West
wall that enclosed Herod's Temple in ancient times.

  The Temple Scroll has solved another mystery for scholars of the
Bible today.  Sixteen of the Dead Sea Scrolls were wrapped in linen
coverings which had a pattern of three concentric quadrangles wo-
ven in blue thread.

  The analysts of these scrolls could not fathom the meaning of
these patterns.  We now realize the significance of this design as
a geometric representation of King Solomon's Temple.

  Hopefully more Dead Sea Scrolls will ultimately be discov- ered,
more of the Bible will be confirmed and additional enigmas

    Bro■ Robert Roman  is Past Master and present Treasurer of Ruth
Lodge No. 89 Norfolk, VA.  He is also an officer of Lodge of
Perfection, Norfolk Scottish Rite Bodies, and a member of the
Knights of Mecca, Norfolk Khedive Shrine Temple.