The Origin of Masonry 4

Part IV. Mt. Gerizim and the Land of Moriah

E. Cromwell Mensch

The fame of King Solomon's Temple lies in the reflected glory of the House of Moses, for it was planned and built with the idea of replacing the Tabernacle with a more permanent structure. The purpose behind its building is to be found in the history of David, father of Solomon. The original Tabernacle was the vehicle which had welded the Israelites into a united mass, and had kept them united during their successful invasion of Palestine. The initial breakthrough took place at Jericho, after which the Israelites spread out to the north and south, but they did not succeed in taking Jerusalem.

Their first objective was to locate the "spot" on which to erect the Tabernacle, which was believed to be at Luz. Moses died just prior to the invasion, but he had left certain instructions, which were to be followed out after they reached the promised land. Among other things, they were instructed to put the blessing upon Mt. Gerizim, and the curse upon Mt. Ebal. Neither the geographical location of these mounts, nor the manner in which the blessing was to be bestowed, were specified. It was decided that the medium was the altar specified in Exodus 20:24, which was to be of earth, or of unhewn stone, and without steps. The allegorical meaning here, of course, is the good earth upon which we dwell.

The Israelites found Luz ill-favoured as a location for the Tabernacle, even though it had been specified by Moses as none other but the house of God and the gate of heaven in Genesis 28:17. They then moved on to Samara and set up their Tabernacle and their altar between the two peaks in that country, which are still called Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal to this day. However, the choice of this "spot" was far from unanimous, and it was not long before the Tabernacle was moved elsewhere.

About 200 years later, or in 1005 B.C., David succeeded in wresting Jerusalem away from the native Jebusites. After taking the city he had himself declared king over both Israel and Judah. Israel was the common name applied to the Israelites of the north, for by then they had lost their tribal distinctions. David himself had risen to power under the banner of the Tribe of Judah, which had maintained its tribal identity in the south. At the time David established himself at Jerusalem, the true location of the mount upon which a blessing was to be put was still a live issue.

In the meantime the original Tabernacle had vanished and the Ark of the Covenant had been placed in storage. The lustre of the Ark had been somewhat dimmed prior to this on account of its failure to stop the Philistines on the field of battle. Under this combination of circumstances David saw a splendid opportunity to restore the Ark to its natural setting, and, at one and the same time, establish a mount of his own upon which to put a blessing. He accordingly purchased the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite, and this is the "spot" upon which the Temple was subsequently erected.

It was called the Zion, or hill, which is the literal interpretation of the word Zion. Mount would have served the purpose just as well, for it was here that he pitched a new tabernacle in order that the Ark might be brought out of storage. The use of the word Gerizim was probably avoided because this new shrine was designed to serve Israel as well as Judah, and these people of the north already had a Mt. Gerizim. We get a vague hint of this from the use of the word Moriah, which is commonly called Mt. Moriah today. The original use of this word is to be found in Genesis 22:2, which states that the sacrifice of Abraham's son Isaac was to take place in the land of Moriah, and upon one of the mountains of which he was to be told. This passage of Scripture was probably cited at that time as an authority, or precedent, for the establishment of a second mount at Jerusalem.

It was after David had pitched this new Tabernacle that he made known his intention of replacing it with a more permanent structure. With this structure he undertook to create a vehicle, which, in the words of II Samuel 7:13, he hoped would establish the throne of his kingdom forever. This hope lay in the belief that he could endow his contemplated Temple with the powers of the original Tabernacle by duplicating its design. Hiram of Tyre was called in as a collaborator, because he had previously built the palace in which David had set himself up as king over the two branches of the Israelites. Hiram was a Phoenician, and his city of Tyre was in a better position to furnish skilled artisans.

However, the basic design of the Temple was copied from the description of the Tabernacle, or rather that part of its description which is to be found in the Book of Exodus. The builders of the Temple apparently did not understand the true cabalism of the writings of Moses, for the key to the design of the Tabernacle is concealed in the ladder Jacob supposedly dreamt about. In the words of Moses, this was none other but the house of God and the gate to heaven, as set forth in Genesis 28:17. In the previous verse, Genesis 28:16, Jacob had just awaked out of his sleep, which refers back to Genesis 28:12, and, "he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it."

The essence of the ladder of Jacob was the cubical Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle. It was projected into a column of 7 cubes on the Trestle Board, with horizontal coordinates extending out over the centre of the drawing from the upper levels of the 2nd, 4th, and 6th cubes. Below these horizontals, and on the base line, another cube was drawn to represent the Holy of Holies itself. From the centre of this Holy of Holies a series of ascending "angles" were projected upward to intercept the horizontals. At the points of intersection, vertical ordinates were dropped to the base line, and they exactly prescribed the 48 cubits length of the Tabernacle. A 7th ordinate was projected upwards into infinity, from the centre of the base line, and represented the joining of the celestial with the terrestrial sphere. This 7th ordinate was the top of the ladder, which reached to heaven. The cubes were 7 in number because they represented the 7 bodies of our planetary system which are visible to the naked eye. Each of the ascending angles were 23½ degrees, because that is the celestial angle at which the earth is inclined away from the plane of its orbit.

The unit of measurement was obtained by dividing one edge of the cubical Holy of Holies into 10 equal parts. The Apex of the curtains of Goats' Hair was equal to the height of 3 cubes, or 30 cubits. Half this height, or 15 cubits, was equivalent to the combined widths of the 10 boards of the sheathing, and the upper half prescribed the height of the pediments. The descending "angles" of Genesis 28:12 exactly subtended the 1½ cubits cross-section of the Ark of the Covenant below the centre of the Holy of Holies. The descending ordinates exactly laid out the 7 bents, or vertical bars across which the "six" boards of Exodus 36:27 were spaced out. This is indeed none other but the House of God, and the House we proclaim was erected to God and dedicated to His Holy name.

The 7th ordinate came direct from the celestial, and was symbolic of the path down which Moses had brought the word of God, for it intersected the mercy seat of the Ark in its exact centre. This was within the cubical of the Holy of Holies, which was designated as the most Holy place. The balance of the space within the House was called the Holy place, and its several parts were symbolic of the several features of our planetary system.

Outside the House, and far off about the Tabernacle, the 12 tribes were encamped. As each tribe was encamped under the ensign of his Father's house, the encampment itself was symbolic of the 12 constellations of the Zodiac. Hence, the complete layout of Tabernacle and encampment was copied from the design of the Father's house in the celestial.

Had the builders of the Temple thoroughly understood the implications of the ladder Jacob supposedly dreamt about, it is highly improbable they would have built their structure of stone. This ladder truly located the gateway to heaven, for whenever and wherever the original Tabernacle was set up, the ladder of Jacob formed an integral part of its design. The "mount" it blessed was the mother earth on which the Tabernacle rested.